Condition checks enhance early lambing perfomance
By Richard Allison
EARLY lambers must start preparing their flocks now because dates for synchronisation are fast approaching, says independent sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings.
"Early lambing is a more expensive system than later lambing with unit costs of about 250p/kg deadweight. Therefore, it is crucial to plan ahead by carefully working out all costs and identifying areas where savings can be made."
Fortunately, costs can be predicted accurately when achieving a reasonable lambing percentage, but future market price is a big unknown due to foot-and-mouth. Ms Stubbings advises producers already doing a good job of early lambing to carry on. It is impossible to decide on change without key market information, she says.
"Market price will depend on demand next April and when export markets resume. An additional factor will be the number of hoggets carried over for breeding. Remem-ber that lamb numbers are about 10-15% down due to F&M culling and poor weather this spring."
Ms Stubbings stresses this is not the year to experiment with a new system, and moving into early lambing for the first time with no ready market is risky.
But for producers deciding on early lambing, careful flock management can enhance performance.
"When assessing performance, look at lambing percentage in previous years as an indicator of early lambing success. It should be 160% or more. One major reason for it being less than 160% is ewes being too fat when put to the ram.
"Another reason for poor lambing percentage is using ewes which lambed in February/March. They will not have enough time to get over their last lambing and are likely to be in poor condition.
"Also ensure tups are in good condition. They are often under-weight in summer after being left on poorer grazing. Start to feed them now, but avoid them becoming too fat as this also compromises performance. Tups should have good feet. Now is the time to trim them."
Ms Stubbings says the costs of using melatonin implants (Regulin) or sponges and pregnant mare serum gonadotrophin (PMSG) are similar, but there are other benefits to consider.
Regulin use requires more forward planning with a six-week lead time. Conception rates can be more than 90% at a normal lambing percentage, with lambing over a three-week period, she says.
"Using sponges and PMSG instead will reduce the spread in lambing to only seven days, which suits some producers more. There is also a shorter lead time of 14 days before tups are introduced. "Conception rates are lower than for Regulin at 70-75%." *
• Market uncertain next spring.
• Avoid ewes getting over fat.
• Ensure good tup health.