With the large number of store lambs currently on farms, farmers are considering finishing lambs, selling as stores, or buying store lambs for finishing.

The target is to finish store lambs from grazed grass, however many producers are not able to achieve this and will need to supplement their lambs with concentrate feeding.

To do this, Eamonn Dempsey, a drystock advisor with Teagasc in Tralee, Co. Kerry, said it is best to divide lambs into three weight brackets:

  • Less than 30kg;
  • 30-38kg;
  • Over 38 kg.

It will then be possible to see the proportion of lambs in each of these categories and identify what grass is available in order to assess whether there is sufficient feed to carry them through the winter.

Lamb weights

Dempsey encourages farmers to keep the lambs in the under 30kg category on a grass or a forage value until after Christmas, when the market value for lamb will increase.

The lambs in the 30kg to 38kg category should receive a reasonable store lamb price, with Dempsey saying that depending on grass availability or cashflow, farmers can decide to either finish or sell.

The drystock advisor recommends that lambs in the finishing group over 38kg can be fed 0.5kg to 0.75kg/meal/day and draft as they become fit.

When considering options, Dempsey said to remember not to compromise next year’s lamb crop by eating grass needed for breeding ewes.

If concentrates are being fed to lambs, Teagasc recommends the ration should be cereal-based with a high percentage of either maize, barley, oats or wheat.

Growing lambs (less than 35kg) have an additional requirement for protein and should receive a diet containing 14% crude protein.

For lambs that are well grown and in the finishing phase, Dempsey said they will not benefit from dietary crude protein levels above 12%.

Health of store lambs

To ensure good flock health, Dempsey recommends to purchase lambs that are vaccinated against pasturella pneumonia or to vaccinate lambs on arrival for clostridial diseases and pasturella.

The Teagasc advisor said purchased lambs “generally don’t have a high faecal egg count” but can become infected quickly when moved onto another sheep farm.

He advises to dose lambs on arrival and a month later based on results of a faecal egg count.

For the treatment of lameness, footbath lambs in copper sulphate solution 10%, and inspect lambs for signs of contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD).

To prevent the introduction of scab, Dempsey recommends to plunge dip or treat lambs with an injectable macrocyclic lactone and isolate from the main flock.

The use of pour-on or plunge dipping will also prevent other external parasites such as lice, ticks and blowfly.