8 November 1996


HIGH stocking rates – up to 22 ewes and lambs a hectare at turnout – and a high number of lambs sold per ewe are the keys to high margins at ADAS Drayton, Warwicks.

The commercially run flock of North Country Mules averages between 1.7 and 1.8 lambs sold per ewe to the tup. Breed prolificacy, correct condition score at tupping and ensuring high lamb birthweights are vital to achieving a high number of lamb sales.

"Making money out of lowland sheep is down to attention to detail and making the most of grass. Nitrogen use is high at 250kg/ha a year to support average stocking rates of 15 ewes a hectare over the entire season plus two cuts of silage," says Drayton-based researcher Pat Johnson.

"Managing ewe condition correctly through autumn plays a key role in reproductive performance," says Mr Johnson.

Two months before tupping ewes in poor condition are split from the main flock and fed the best grass available to bring them up to a score of 3.5 when rams are turned in. But when grass growth is poor, flushing is improved by feeding silage at grass, particularly to those ewes poor condition.

Winter feed rations to complement the straw-based diet are flat-rate fed from housing in January at 0.6kg whole wheat and 0.2kg soyabean head/day.

Concentrate is split into two feeds to prevent digestive disorders occurring and Mr Johnson recommends that straw must be clean, bright and free from mould so the ewe eats enough long fibre.

Ewe lambs are also fed some concentrate before housing in January because they are sheared pre-tupping and so have an increased feed requirement.

Shearing ewes allows tighter stocking while reducing the risk of prolapses. It also increases feed intake, benefiting lamb growth rates.

This leads to higher lamb birthweights. The Drayton average for singles is 6.4kg, for twins 5.3kg and triplets 4.3kg.

"High birthweights are the key to cutting lamb losses. Bigger lambs lose heat more slowly, have a better suckling reflex and, because ewes are sheared, lambs find the teat more quickly," says Mr Johnson.

After lambing, ewes are kept in individual pens for 24 hours to ensure mothering up and that the lamb receives adequate colostrum either from its mother or by stomach tubing with artificial colostrum containing antibodies.

"It is vital to have enough pens so that even at the peak of lambing ewes can still be kept individually. Using pens many times or doubling up raises the risk of infections such as watery mouth," warns Mr Johnson.n

Shearing ewe lambs pre-tupping allows tighter stocking, reduced risk of prolapses and higher feed intake.

High lamb birthweights are crucial to cutting lamb losses says ADAS Drayton researcher Pat Johnson.


&#8226 High stocking rates.

&#8226 Maintain ewe condition.

&#8226 High lamb birthweights.