How to manage sheep when grass is scarce

If grass is scarce (<3.5-4cm), as a guide, feed 0.75-1.0kg/head/day during the first three weeks to ewes in good condition that are rearing twins, Teagasc advises.

If ewes are in poor condition, increase the daily allowance by about 0.25kg. In the case of ewes rearing singles, 0.4-0.5kg should be adequate in the majority of situations, with a 25-30% increase if ewes are in poor condition, it says.

Teagasc says these levels then need to be increased by 50% for the first five weeks of lactation where grass or good quality forage is not available.

Ewes will have reached their peak yield at five weeks post lambing for single rearing ewes and three weeks for ewes rearing twin lambs.

Where grass is in short supply and lambs are four to five weeks of age, creep should be offered as it is more beneficial to feed the lambs at this stage, Teagasc says.

Forward grazing lambs

Forward creep grazing lambs ahead of ewes has the biggest advantage, it says. This will improve lamb performance when grass supply is tight, because it gives lambs priority access to the scarce supply of high-quality grass, Teagasc says.

The ewes can be maintained on tighter grass for a longer period. Their condition can be recovered later when grass supply becomes more plentiful, it says.

It says this has been shown to result in lambs being 2kg heavier at weaning. Replace the existing gate with a creep gate that has 225mm (9 inch) spacing, as this enables lambs to graze in front of ewes, it advises.