22 March 1996

against drought

Early finish race

EARLY finishing of lambs at Neville Davies Home Farm, Haynes, Bedfordshire, is essential because low rainfall causes poor grass growth in June/July.

Mr Daviess 750 North Country Mules, put to MLC recorded Suffolk or Texel rams, are lambed from March 1.

"We are swinging towards the Suffolk because Suffolk sired lambs grow 10 days more quickly than the Texel," he says.

"Because of the drought we have to finish lambs for the May/June market, with the first lambs sold eight to nine weeks after lambing at 35kg liveweight for a 17kg carcass," says Mr Davies.

All ewes are housed at Christmas, scanned and fed for the six weeks pre-lambing according to the number of lambs they are carrying.

Ewes are turned out at a stocking rate of 18.5/ha (7.4/acre) to ensure lambs take creep not grass. The tight stocking rate keeps growth rates up and gross margins at £890/ha (£360/acre).

After turn-out ewes are fed for four weeks at about 1kg (2lb) a ewe to sustain lactation and lamb growth rates until lambs are established on creep feed.

"Lambs are tailed but not castrated because entire lambs grow more quickly.

"This gives us an extra kg on the carcass over the finishing period without them going to fat," says Mr Davies.

A 20% crude protein creep feed is offered when lambs are two-and-a-half weeks old. This is fed ad lib to slaughter in covered feeders. Feeders are distributed at one to a hundred ewes and checked twice a day.

"We never let feeders get empty, refilling at a rate that matches consumption. If lambs emptied feeders they would gorge themselves at refilling causing digestive upsets," says Mr Davies.

Salt licks are provided and each field has three water tanks to ensure that water intakes are maintained.

A lactating ewe with two lambs requires about a kilogram of concentrate plus minerals a day.