24 April 1998

Finish early lambs by May

PRODUCERS with early born lambs wishing to maximise margins should aim to finish them before the end of May, but weather conditions may slow progress.

With many lambs outside being finished on good quality grass and creep, Norfolk-based Signet sheep consultant James Garner says that recent wet, cold weather will have slowed weight and condition gain.

"Lambs are constantly wet and cold, which increases their maintenance requirements and means a lesser proportion of their feed intake goes towards finishing.

"In addition, grass growth has continued, and many flocks are on long, lush pasture. This stemmy, watery grass is less palatable and can cause scours, slowing growth."

But Mr Garner cautions that price prospects are less rosy for lambs finished after the forecast May price peak. This means maintaining growth rates to ensure lambs are sold at best prices.

"Tighten up ewes and lambs at grass to help maintain a sward height at a maximum of 8cm. Shorter grass will give better performance. This also means lambs will eat less lush grass, so increasing creep intake," says Mr Garner.

Siting the creep in an inviting area and providing some bales to play on will also help encourage feed consumption.

He does not advocate taking lambs back inside for finishing, believing this causes more harm than good.