28 July 1995

May lambing option

LAMBING ewes in May rather than earlier in the spring could be a better alternative for some flockmasters who have been running dry ewes since quotas were introduced three years ago.

Dr John Vipond, senior sheep specialist at the Scottish Agricul-tural College, Penicuick, held a meeting of producers in Hampshire to encourage May lambing.

The Hampshire meeting follows the set-up of a Scottish producer group, with 49 subscribing members. Half of the 49 Scottish flocks lambed in May this year.

Dr Vipond is starting the groups with funding from the MLC in response to concerns of falling lamb sales affecting British market share. "Ewes are not lambed due to increased financial returns from sheep annual premium payments and a lack of skilled labour at lambing," he claims.

Dr Vipond says May lambing is less stressful on sheep and shepherd than conventional lambing and more profitable than dry sheep farming. He believes a margin of £34.50 a ewe a year is possible.

Ewes are over-wintered without housing or concentrate feeding and can lamb outdoors naturally, encouraging maternal bonding. "With this system lamb mortality from hypothermia and watery mouth is likely to be reduced."

Late lambing ewes need to be tupped in December. For successful flushing, ewes must be offered adequate grass or forage brassicas, advises Dr Vipond. "May lambing also works well on farms with set-aside, which can be used for autumn grazing," he says. &#42