Farmer Focus: Wet season forces sheep inside early

We spent February desperately hoping for some drier weather with lambing due to start any day. I’m sure everyone is in the same boat.

We brought our indoor-lambing flock into the shed a couple of weeks early after they motored their way through the winter feed faster than planned.

This was because of poor turnip growth, combined with trampling caused by the wet conditions.

See also: Tips for feeding and managing ewes for lambing success

About the author

Louise Elkington
Louise Elkington runs 500 breeding ewes in Lincolnshire with husband Chris for their Gelston lamb brand, supplying restaurants, 13 Co-op stores and their online shop. They have 54ha of grass on a farm business tenancy and agreements for stubble turnips and hay aftermaths.
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Everything settled into the shed well, even the shearlings who have never been inside. Hopefully that will make lambing go easier.

There’s nothing worse than handling wild shearlings lambing for the first time, trying to get them to follow lambs to the mothering-up pens.

We feed our ewes on haylage and an 18% grass pellet.

The haylage baled on the farm last year wasn’t as good as previous years when analysed, so we are having to feed more grass pellets to compensate.

It’s an extra cost, but we feel it’s worth it to get nutrition right and milk production up. 

To help us work out what we should be feeding, we spoke to Nerys Wright, who we got to know through being a Strategic Farm for AHDB.

She’s extremely knowledgeable and helped us work out the ewes’ ration based on the haylage analysis report.

We will only know if we have got it right once lambs start going out in the field.

We never leave triplets on our ewes. We have tried in the past, but they don’t seem to do very well, and you end up with three small lambs, a ewe with a lot taken out of it, and a trip to the cull pen much sooner.

We try to wet-adopt as many triplets as we can onto single ewes. When milk powder is as expensive as it is, it’s a good incentive to get lambs adopted on.

Easter is just round the corner, so not only are we busy in the lambing shed, it’s also one of our busiest times of year in the butchery.

We are hoping that the next pop-up shop will fit in nicely on 23 March between indoor and outdoor lambing – but when do things ever go to plan?