Return to wintry conditions this weekend will impact on feed requirements of hill ewes lambing

Ewes lambing this weekend may require additional feeding and shelter, according to Teagasc’s Tom Coll.

The Mohill-based sheep advisor was commenting in the wake of the forecasted return to wintry conditions from Saturday onwards.

“Hill ewes are normally brought down to lowland fields in preparation for lambing,” he said.

“But they must have access to swards with enough of a grass cover to allow them meet their own needs and those of their newborn lambs. As a rule of thumb, swards should have at least 5cm of grass cover. If this is not the case, then ewes will need supplementary feeding.

“Most hill ewes give birth to a single lamb, so feeding up to half a kilo of meal per head per day will be sufficient to meet their needs while the cold snap lasts.”

Coll pointed out that hill lambs are born with a much thicker coat than their lowland counterparts.

“So they can readily adapt to cold conditions. But sleet, wet snow and heavy rain will act to chill young lambs, leading to a significant increase in mortality rates.”

Coll also said that the 2015 hill lambing season has been going well up to this point.

“Ewes were in good condition when the tips went in last autumn. And this should translate into an increased lamb crop this year. We are already seeing this in lowland flocks with producers confirming an extra 0.2 lambs weaned per ewe this season,” he said

“If this is replicated on the hills, then most flockowners can look forward to weaning in excess of one lamb per ewe. And this really is a good news story for farmers.

“But that’s for the future. The challenge for hill men over the coming days is to get ewes and lambs over the hump of the expected cold snap. The one consolation is that the weather is expected to return to more normal conditions during the early days of next week.”

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