‘Weaning is the time to check ewes for culling’
Weaning is the time to check ewes for culling, according to Pat McCambridge of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).
This is to make sure the flock is not carrying unproductive sheep that will create extra work for farmers, he says.
Weaning can be considered as the end of the ewe’s work for one season and the start of the new season, he says.
Decisions and actions taken now will affect flock profitability and many ewes should be already identified for culling due to mastitis, foot problems, prolapse, difficult lambing and other problems identified throughout the year, McCambridge says.
He also advises to cull old ewes and those that persistently maintain poor condition.
“Condition score ewes and move thin ewes (condition score two or less) to good swards. The rest of the flock should be maintained in good condition to achieve condition scores of at least 3-3.5 before bringing in the ram,” he says.
At weaning (14 weeks of age for most situations) move lambs to the best swards on the farm, McCambridge says.
Hogget ewes, suckling twins and ewes with triplets should be weaned earlier, he says.
Lambs should be weaned onto silage aftermaths or productive swards rested from sheep grazing, he says.
Maintain grass covers at 2200kg DM/ha as a good grass/clover sward containing 30% clover can improve liveweight gain of finishing lambs by up to 25%.
Assess the need for worm drenching and consider using the Faecal Egg Count pack to check egg counts from lambs, he says.
McCambridge says that on most intensive sheep farms drenching weaned lambs before moving to new/clean pastures is money well spent.
Weigh a representative sample of your lambs and dose for the heaviest lambs and use products to suit the expected finishing period with the correct dosage for the weight of lambs, he says.
It is also important, according to McCambridge, to check product details and the accuracy of the dosing apparatus.
On many sheep farms foot problems affect lamb thrive so at weaning lambs should be foot bathed using 10% zinc sulphate or 5% formalin solutions, he advises.
Stand the lambs in the solution for the recommended period of time and repeat every 14 days.
You may need to redesign your sheep races to ensure the standing time requirement is met and individual lambs with severe feet scald or infections should be treated with antibiotic sprays/injections, he says.
McCambridge says that mixed grazing with cattle and rotational grazing help reduce foot scald and foot rot in lambs.
Resting grazing areas from sheep for more than 14 days can help break the cycle of the foot rot bacteria, he says.