2 August 2002

Doubt cast over polymesh shelters

PROVIDING polymesh shelters for outdoor lambing lowland flocks has no beneficial effect on lamb mortality or growth rates, preliminary results show.

The third year of an easy-care lambing project examined the effect of providing shelter for outdoor lambing, says Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland researcher Lynne Dawson. "The aim was to improve lamb mortality and growth rates in grass-based lambing systems."

Polymesh shelters of X and Z-shaped, designs were erected in lambing and post-lambing fields on six lowland units. "Before lambing, ewes tended not to use the shelters. We are unsure why, but weather was unusually mild in March, ideal for lambing."

After lambing, shelters were used by ewes and lambs, but no relationship was found between weather and shelter use. Lambs and ewes preferred X-shaped shelters with a roof. "Perhaps it provided more shelter at the point in the middle," says Dr Dawson.

But there was no benefit to providing shelters in terms of lamb mortality or liveweight gain. She believes there could have been a benefit in colder conditions. To test this, the study has been extended an extra year, she adds.

Further results from the easycare lambing project, together with other projects, will be presented to producers in a series of three farm walks (028-9268 2484; fax 028-9268 9594). &#42


Date Location

Aug 6 Derry, Co Londonderry

Aug 7 Moss-side, Co Antrim

Aug 8 Greyabbey, Co Down