Should more farmers be monitoring lamb weaning weights?

The kilograms of liveweight weaned per ewe is an excellent indicator of ewe efficiency, according to Teagasc’s Noirin McHugh.

Speaking at a recent Sheep Ireland industry meeting, she said: “A ewe that weans her own weight is basically an efficient ewe, while a ewe that weans lambs that are less than her own weight is very inefficient.”

Presenting an analysis of data from the Sheep Ireland database, Noirin highlighted that there’s huge variation in the weaning weights achieved by ewes across the country.

On average, the ewes within the Sheep Ireland database are weaning a litter of about 47kg.

“When we look at the variation, we can see that some ewes are weaning lambs that are 15kg heavier – they are doing a very efficient job – whereas some ewes are weaning lambs that are 15kg lighter relative to their own weight.

“The top 20% of ewes in the Sheep Ireland database, relative to their own mature weight, are weaning a litter that’s 21.47kg heavier,” she noted.

From the use of ewe weights and lamb weaning weights, Noirin explained that farmers will be able to assess the efficiency of the ewes within their flock.

This is a really important benchmarking tool for breeders to look at their individual ewes to see what kind of job they are doing on an annual basis in terms of their weaned litter weight.

“A lot of this information is already in the database and it’s an encouragement to start weighing more ewes and lambs. To me, it’s a very important benchmarking tool. It can identify efficient and inefficient ewes and allow you to make selection decisions,” she concluded.