Reducing grass demand by weaning lambs and culling ewes

The dry weather over the last few weeks has put farms under pressure, as grass growth rates continue to drop off.

At this stage of the year, many sheep farms will be looking at the possibility of weaning lambs and getting as many sent to the factory as possible, in order to free up grass – especially around the eastern part of the country.

In many areas, farmers are struggling, with land becoming scorched – due to the warm and dry conditions.

Therefore, a case may be made for weaning lambs off ewes a bit earlier to try and take the pressure off grass supplies.

By weaning lambs, say at 10-12 weeks-of-age or so, you will, straight away, reduce the grass demand of the ewes.

However, as well as weaning lambs earlier and drafting them for the factory, another option is identifying and culling ewes you don’t plan on breeding again.

Ewes that poised problems at lambing time or older ewes should be culled and replaced with ewe hoggets or ewe lambs.

Hanging onto to these “problem ewes” is of no benefit, as more often than not, a ewe that caused trouble at lambing will more than likely give bother again.

Weaning lambs a little bit earlier will reduce the grass demand on the farm

Keeping these ewes during this dry spell will only end up in valuable grass supplies being used up that should be kept for ewes that have been earmarked for breeding again this year.

Even though factory prices for cull ewes are back from what they were two months ago, most meat processing plants are still offering up to 250c/kg for factory-fit ewes.

Moreover, prices for cull ewes across livestock marts are holding fairly well, with well-fleshed ewes trading from between €100/head up to €130/head.

So, to take the pressure off grass supplies and to prevent the need to introduce concentrates to lambs in order to take the pressure off, it may be best to wean lambs a bit earlier and cull what ewes you don’t plan on keeping for breeding.