22 May 1998

Lamb prices not too bad

The first of the 1998 lambs

have been marketed from

Kings Arms and, considering

the general trend in red

meat prices, prices seem

reasonable. Allan Wright

reports

ROBERT and Caroline Dalry-mple sold their first lambs on May 7, the same time as last year, though there were nine more in the initial consignment.

The 46 head averaged £54, which was £5 down on the year. The average weight was down very slightly at 19.4kg, making a price of 278p/kg compared with 300p last year.

A further 80 lambs averaging 19kg deadweight were sold last week at £55.50 a head or 292p/kg, down 5p on the year. The aim is to have 400 sold by the end of May.

The 1990 lambs produced by 1075 tupped ewes gives a reared lamb percentage of 185. Barren ewes and casualties reduced the number of ewes rearing lambs by almost 5%.

Hoggs have not been so prolific. More were kept to stock a new farm but the purchase fell through. Lambing percentage has fallen from 100 to 87.

"We put 101 bought-in Mules and 225 home-bred Texel crosses to the tup from Oct 15 to Nov 25, and 36 Texels and 39 crosses were not in lamb. The Texels were sold but we kept the Mules because they were expensive," says Robert.

Overall, the Dalrymples have a total lamb crop this year of 2274, 11% more than last year. All finished lambs are sold to ABP at Bathgate, marketed through Ayrshire Country Lamb co-operative and farm-assured by the Scotch Quality Beef and Lamb Association.

The strongest Suffolk cross lambs are creep fed until the first week in June to finish as many as possible by that time and beat the summer slide in market prices. Besides that benefit, the cost of about £5 a lamb also releases grass for cows with calves.

Routine worm dosing began on Apr 21. Drug groups are rotated to avoid worm resistance in the flock. This years favoured product has a three-day withdrawal period. "That means we can draw lambs for sale, dose the rest the next day and still draw next weeks consignment to Bathgate," says Robert.

The disappointment of the suckled calf sales at Ayr (Stock and Sales Update, Apr 24) where total income was down £8400 on the year with bullock calves back £60 and heifers £45, is not forgotten. But priority now lies with the new crop of calves.

Tightening the calving

Calving is almost complete. Tail-enders from the spring herd have joined the summer herd and everything will have calved by the end of June, tightening the calving pattern by about three days.

The Dalrymples are sometimes teased that their reports in this series suggest little goes wrong. But trouble shooting is part of the daily routine, calf pneumonia being a prime example.

"We decided to cut out the £9 a time anti-pneumonia injection this year but have kept a careful watch on the calves. I think we had what might be termed silent pneumonia which could easily have been diagnosed as scour," says Robert.

"When one calf was stretched out we sent for the vet and its temperature suggested pneumonia. Rehydration and expensive antibiotics were administered and we then set off to catch any of the calves that looked off colour. Several with high temperatures were given the same therapy and all have been saved." He suspects the problem was caused by remarkable weather and temperature changes in the past month.

A dozen replacement heifers and 25 cows with calves have gone to summer grazing which helps qualify for extensification premiums on cattle subsidies. The Dalrymples completed their 1998 IACS form in record time.

"We set aside half a day for it and managed the job in 40min. We are all grassland and, having got all the field boundaries sorted out over the past two years, we simply had to check off the field sizes against those given for last year and sign the form," says Caroline.

An extra cost has been two loads of straw at £52 and £56/t, more than £10 up on the October price. "The barley straw weighed light – we were wrong to think we had enough. The suckled calves are all on straw for three weeks before they are sold and they go through a lot," says Robert.

However, he has 175t of silage remaining which will allow the next field in the reseeding rotation to be drilled after the first cut of silage rather than the second. Last years re-seed has involved an extra expense – a second spray against docks.

"We sprayed last October using Legumex which kills the seedlings. But more appeared this spring and we have had to spray again. That has never happened before and is not welcome at £16/acre," he says.

The Dalrymples are natural optimists but could not help noticing the general gloom among fellow farmers visiting Ayr Show earlier this month. "It was cold and miserable. There were gaps in the trade stand lines and everyone was despondent. It wasnt much of a day out," says Caroline.

Kings Arms ewes gave a reared lamb % of 185 this year, says Robert Dalrymple). Hoggs were not so productive, but the overall crop amounts to 2274 lambs. The first sold for reasonable prices, he reports.

LAMB STATS

&#8226 Ewes: Reared lamb % – 185.

&#8226 Hoggs: Reared lamb % – 87.

&#8226 Sales to date:

First 46 @ 19.4kg – 278p/kg.

Next 80 @ 19kg – 292p/kg.

Last years calves sold poorly. Total income was £8400 down on the year. But that must be forgotten as the new crop arrives.

FARM FACTS

&#8226 Kings Arms and Crailoch Farms, at Ballantrae on the Ayrshire coast, run as one 262ha (650 acre) unit by Robert and Caroline Dalrymple.

&#8226 Grass the only crop – for grazing and high quality silage. It is an early area but land near the sea is sandy and burns easily in summer.

&#8226 Suckler herd of 180 cows mated to Charolais sires and progeny sold as yearlings.

&#8226 Sheep flock of 900 Mule and Texel-cross ewes lambing from mid-February. About 300 hoggs are also lambed.

&#8226 Farm staff of three.