Kevin Daniel

20 March 1998

Kevin Daniel

Kevin Daniel has a mixed

lowland holding near

Launceston, Cornwall. The

65ha (160 acres) farm and

20ha (50 acres) of rented

ground supports 70

Simmental cross suckler

cows, 380 Border Leicester

cross Suffolk ewes and 28ha

(70 acres) arable.

WITH only a week to go before lambing commences we are busy cleaning, assembling and disinfecting 45 individual pens for ewes after they have lambed. It always amazes me every year that at the end of lambing we have a water bucket for every pen, but at the start of the next season several have disappeared – bucket manufacturers must make them self-destruct during the summer months to boost sales in the spring.

The ewes in the eight-week run-up to lambing have received two doses of Heptavac P four weeks apart, along with two iodine drenches. The unshorn ewes have been crutched and all the ewes have run through a foot bath containing a 10% zinc sulphate solution every 7-10 days.

Ewes have held condition extremely well indicating that nutrition has been adequate. Feeding has consisted of ad-lib silage with a purchased ewe nut.

Feed rates have been determined by litter size, and have been stepped up gradually starting six weeks before lambing. Singles are now receiving 0.4kg/day, doubles 0.8kg and trebles 1.1kg. Protein content of the compound was increased from 18% to 20% three weeks before lambing in a bid to encourage colostrum production.

Extra vitamin E has been introduced this year after trial results seem to suggest more vigorous lambs at birth. Deccox has also been added to reduce the spread of coccidiosis by the ewes onto the pasture after lambing.

The compound has been fed using an extremely hi-tech method known as the "bucket and chuck it" system. This involves standing outside the pen and throwing in buckets full of feed and the ewes spend the next hour foraging through the straw. It is a simple system that dispenses with all the pushing, shoving and stress, for both shepherd and ewes, normally associated with trough feeding.

Sceptics who are horrified at the thought of throwing expensive feed onto the floor should take comfort that anyone who has taken up my challenge of a £10 reward for a sheep nut found in the straw after feeding has gone away unrewarded.

With mild weather and perfect ground conditions, I was tempted to spread fertiliser on Feb 24, the earliest start ever at Trebursye; 150kg of 20.8.12 compound an acre was applied to first-cut silage fields. I stopped short of applying fertiliser to grazing ground which is all permanent pasture, much of it north facing, believing it to be still too early – a drop in the temperature and 7.5cm of rain in the first week of March has upheld my decision. &#42

Besides ad-lib silage, Kevin Daniels pregnant ewes are on the high-tech "bucket and chuck it" feeding system which appears to be working well.

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