6 September 1996

Weaning care matters more than growth rates

Management of ewe condition post weaning is the priority for May lambing flocks. Rebecca Austin reports

WEANING ewes and lambs at 12 weeks, rather than 14, at West Tisted Manor Estate, Alresford, Hants, gives ewes more time to regain condition prior to December tupping.

Drought-like conditions originally forced the date two weeks forward. And Shepherd Adrian Gibbs initial fear that this would have an adverse effect on lamb growth rates has proved unfounded.

On August 1, 30kg May-born lambs were moved to silage aftermaths about a mile away from the ewes. They were wormed at weaning and vaccinated with Ovivac P as pasturella has been known to affect sheep on the farm. The first jab was given two weeks pre-weaning and the second four-to-six weeks later.

These lambs were shorn in the second week of August. Because they are not sold until Christmas, there is no worry about the £5 deduction at the abattoir which would be incurred on lambs sold earlier.

"Lambs grow much better with their wool off because they dont stop eating in the hot weather," says Mr Gibbs. "It saves us crutching them, which costs 18p a lamb, as well as one treatment with vetrazin at a cost of 20p a lamb. And even though shearing costs 50p a lamb, that is recovered in wool sales."

Lambs are stocked at 35/ha (14/acre) onto first-year leys before moving to stubble turnips at the end of October. This leaves the second-year leys for the 1550 Mules and Texel crosses.

For 10 days immediately post weaning, all ewes are stocked heavily at 74/ha (30/acre) to dry off on poor pasture. They are then split into four groups: very poor, poor, medium and very fat and grazed accordingly. Fit ewes are stocked at 49 to 74/ha (20 to 30/acre) while thinner types are grazed at 10 to 12/ha (4 to 5/acre)

Every 10 to 14 days, usually when they are moved, Mr Gibbs runs through the ewes to recheck condition score. Any which have moved out of their groups range are repositioned accordingly to ensure they are all just over score 3 at tupping.

Ewes likely to struggle through the winter are culled immediately. Others, which are physically fit but marked down as barreners, for example, are kept during the retention period in February and sold at Banbury market.

When grass gets tight – it is ploughed up at the beginning of September – fit ewes spend two to three weeks on stubbles where chopped straw is available and a small amount of concentrates to keep them on a maintenance ration.

For a chance to see for yourself the innovative and effective large-scale system at The West Tisted Manor Estate, Alresford, Hants, why not attend the next Scottish Agricultural College producer meeting on May lambing? It will be held on Nov 14, 1996, and kicks off at 10.30am. For more details contact the SACs John Vipond on 0131-535 3000.


&#8226 Wormed and vaccinated aganist pasturella.

&#8226 Shorn second week August to improve growth.

&#8226 Stocked first year leys then stubble turnips.

Shepherd Adrian Gibbs shears May-born lambs in mid-August.