International researchers seek farmer views on rearing triplet lambs

The key factor in profitability for grass-based lamb production systems – the mean number of lambs reared per ewe – has not improved in the last 30 years – with an international team of researchers seeking to investigate an aspect of this.

Data from the Teagasc National Farm Survey shows that the mean number of lambs reared per ewe joined is 1.3 – a statistic that has not risen in the since the 1980s, according to Teagasc.

Increasing the number of lambs reared per ewe joined is the main factor influencing the profitability of grass based systems of prime lamb production.

As ewe productivity improves, the incidence of triplets and larger litters increase. For example, flocks with mean litter sizes of 1.8, 2.0 and 2.2 the incidence of triplets is expected to be 8%, 15% and 25% respectively.

Consequently an issue that faces producers with prolific flocks is what to do with triplets.

In some flocks triplets are reared by their dams and managed as a separate flock. Other producers remove one lamb from each set of triplets and is either cross-fostered to single-bearing ewes, sold for cross-fostering, or artificially reared.

A team of researchers comprised of: Teagasc in Ireland; Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and University of Edinburgh; and AgResearch from New Zealand, is determining farmer attitudes to, and management practices associated with, triplet bearing ewes during pregnancy and post lambing to weaning.

The team will include Dr. Tim Keady; Prof. Cathy Dwyer and Cathrine Erichsen; and Dr. Sue McCoard will represent the Irish, Scottish and Kiwi institutions in the joint initiative.

The project is currently seeking participation from all sheep farmers in the survey.

The survey is completely anonymous and can be completed online – with Irish farmers asked to complete the form.

For those interested, the survey can be accessed here.