31 May 1996

Grass is good…

By Sue Rider

EWES and lambs should no longer need supplementary feeding with sufficient grass growth now in most sheep grazing areas.

The general rule for supplementing ewes and lambs is that once grass height exceeds 4cm (1.6in) extra feeding can be stopped, grass supplying all ewes needs, says the Scottish Agricultural Colleges John Vipond.

"Most sheep grazing should be above 4cm and so now is the time to stop concentrate feeding."

However, he admits producers on exposed units might be short of keep and cautions that the prolonged cold and shortage of grazing into late spring in some areas has left ewes lean. "In this situation maintaining 6cm sward heights will give them a full bite.".

He recognises that the current lamb prices might tempt producers to creep feed lambs in the hope of getting them away quickly before more are drawn on the flush off grass. However, he cautions against substituting good quality grass for concentrates.

Producers with February to early March-born lambs within three weeks to a month of being finished, could be offered creep ad lib. The creep could be cheapened by replacing expensive proprietory concentrates with whole cereals. But change must be gradual.

"It is important when creep feeding to maintain constant intakes to safeguard against acidosis and dietary upset," says Dr Vipond. "Dont allow the creep feeders to empty before filling them up, especially when moving to whole cereals.

Lambs under 30kg are best maintained, however, on grass alone. "Creep feeding of young spring-born lambs on grass is difficult to justify for their mothers milk meets their full requirement."

ADAS sheep specialist Lesley Stubbings reports creep feeding "going on like no tomorrow.

Once lambs are taking creep then reliance on the ewe is reduced and supplementary feeding is difficult to justify, she says.

But she admits ewes have had a hard time this year. "There are a lot of dirty back-ended ewes which is a sign theyre struggling a bit.

If ewes are on the lean side Dr Stubbings advises producers to think ahead and wean as soon as they can.

&#8226 Powys producer John Jones who runs 1100 ewes and 100 suckler cows at Tirnewydd, Guilsfield is not short of grass, writes Robert Davies. The first 50 February-born lambs have been sold, and those in the main flock are growing well and should begin reaching market at the end of June at 12-weeks-old.

This he attributes to regular soil testing and maintenance of nutrient levels, taking all stock off and resting swards for as long as possible, and not turning out cattle until May 1. Herbage growth on silage areas suggests mowing on June 20, about one week late.