14 April 1995

Vital few weeks for sheepmen

SHEEP producers could face the most crucial few weeks of their year during the next month.

Extra grazing demands on this seasons poor grass growth are likely to put lactating ewes under severe pressure. And the difficulties are not restricted to the lowlands. While some hill flocks have fared well in the mild winter, others are reported to be "very poor" and extra feeding in the run up to lambing will be critical.

West Midlands Signet sheep specialist Maurice Jones advises lowland producers to keep a close eye on ewes with lambs. Although plagued by constant rain, many flocks wintered well in the milder weather. Lambing percentages havent been affected but ewes have shown a marked loss in condition since lambing.

"Grass took a sharp check in late March and as lambs milk requirements reach a peak there could be problems ahead if adequate nutrition is not maintained.

"Ewes will continue to lose condition and that means a big risk of magnesium problems when the grass does come back," says Mr Jones.

Feed blocks will reduce the mis-mothering problems which can be associated with trough feeding. An average extra cost of about £1.50-£2 a ewe will be money well spent to get ewes over the next fortnight or so.

Boosting ewe nutrition to maintain milk yield is more cost-effective than creep feeders in maintaining lamb growth. &#42