Why now is the time to put a plan in action for early lambing ewes

Easter may seem like a long way away but early lamb producers should switch their attention to breeding in the next couple of weeks if they are to meet early lambing targets.

Easter Sunday falls on April 16 next year, two weeks later than last year, and to have lambs ready for the Easter trade farmers are advised to aim to have their ewes lambing down in early January.

According to Teagasc, farmers should aim to lamb their ewes 14-16 weeks prior to the peak period for Easter lamb sales, which is usually one week in advance of Easter Sunday.

The research body says that the majority of breed types in Ireland will require synchronisation to allow them to lamb during this period.

And, it says that the use of progestagen implanted sponges allows for oestrus to be synchronised, while PMSG can be used to increase the ovulation rates and the litter size of ewes successfully mated.

Source: Teagasc

Along with the use of synchronisation aids, higher feed costs are also associated with early lamb production, and to justify the costs its is essential that farmers meet a number of key targets.

Targets for early season lambing:
  • 70% of ewes sponged conceive and lamb down
  • Litter size of 1.7 lambs per ewe lambed
  • 90% of lambs sold by 16 weeks of age

Teagasc research also shows that synchronisation works best when ewes have been weaned at least six weeks prior to sponging.

I also recommends giving each ewe a 500-700iu dose of PMSG into the muscle at the time of sponge removal.

Farmers should also target having their ewes in a body condition score (BCS) of 3.5 at the time of breeding, while they should also have the sponges and PMSG ordered in advance of synchronisation.

When it comes to inserting the sponges, Teagasc advises farmers to take special care with first time breeders and the sponge applicator should be cleaned and disinfected between ewes.

However, rams also play an important role in early lamb production, and according to Teagasc, the ewe to ram ratio should not exceed 8:1

Only fit rams that are free from lameness and have not been subjected to elevated body temperature for the last eight weeks prior to mating should be used.