The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) is advising farmers to take full advantage of the buoyant lamb prices available at the present time.

CAFRE sheep specialist Nigel Gould said: “Sheep producers should draft lambs as they become fit. Young lambs, early in the season, can have adequate fat cover for slaughter from as low as 40kg. This will increase to 45kg and higher later in the season.

“Farmers should also bear in mind the upper carcass weight limits imposed by factories and aim to reduce the number of lambs going overweight and out of spec.

“Kill-out percentages can vary significantly, ranging from 50% for well conformed, young, creep-fed lambs early in the season to 42-44% for poorer conformation lambs finished off grass only as the season progresses.”

Lamb performance

It is critically important to monitor lamb performance at this time of the year to avoid animals going overweight. Performance-related issues should also be identified.

“Producers should target average pre-weaning daily live weight gain for lambs on a grass only diet of 270g and 320g for twin and single lambs respectively," Gould added.

“If performance is below these targets, consider the possible causes: genetics; ewe milk yield; grass yield/quality; mineral deficiency; and possible worm burdens.

“In the case of the latter, faecal egg tests are useful for identifying worm burdens during the summer and indicate a need to treat. This approach should reduce anthelmintic requirement and the incidence of resistance.

“To maintain quality in subsequent rotations, post-grazing sward height should ideally be 3.5-4cm where possible."

Gould explained that grazing below 5-6cm means that poorer quality material is being consumed by growing lambs.

“Ideally, lambs should be moved on at the higher sward height and dry ewes for example, used to graze down to 3.5-4cm," he added.

“Although this requires extra management, it could result in additional weight gain which otherwise would only be achieved by offering creep feed."

Blowfly activity

The CAFRE representative pointed out that warm, damp conditions provide an ideal environment for blowfly activity and maggot strike. Pour-ons, dipping and showering are the most popular control options.

“Producers should pay close attention to withdrawal periods as these can be quite long for certain products, making them unsuitable for lambs nearing slaughter," Gould explained.

“Darkening of the wool in the affected area, with visible signs of distress from the itching and pain, followed by wool loss are all characteristic signs.

"Timely identification and treatment with an appropriate product usually results in a successful outcome.”