Schmallenberg threat fails to materialise

The much talked about threat of a widespread Schmallenberg outbreak this year has not come to pass, according to Teagasc Drystock Advisor Martina Harrington.

“Only one farmer that I am aware of has flagged up the possibility of having a single lamb with the disease,” she said.

“And I am not sure if Schmallenberg was, subsequently, confirmed in that animal. But the good news is that the potential return of the disease, which was highlighted at the beginning of the year, has come to nothing.

“It may well be that the lambs born this spring have antibodies protecting them against Schmallenberg. No doubt this is an issue being addressed by vets at the present time.”

The Enniscorthy-based advisor confirmed that most lowland flockowners are reporting record litter sizes this year.

“This was expected on the basis of the scanning results that farmers would have received weeks before lambing. But there is also firm evidence to show that lamb birth weights are significantly up this year. All of this good news for sheep farmers can be traced back to the exceptional grass growing conditions last year and the fact that most ewes went to the tip in tremendous fettle.”

Harrington admits that ewes will need extra milk this year to feed the larger number of heavier lambs they are rearing.

“One way of achieving this is to increase the protein levels in the feed they are offering the ewes,” she said.

“This can be easily achieved by including soya with the nuts they normally feed.”

Coping with triplet lambs is always a problem on sheep farms.

“Most flockowners are well geared up to implement effective fostering strategies,” said Harrington.

“Another option is the setting up of bespoke rearing units around the farm yard. Alternatively, some farmers will sell newborns which they choose not to feed. From what I can gather pet lambs are making between €20 and €25 per head on DoneDeal.”

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