Teagasc recently held its final BETTER Farm Sheep Walk event of the year, in Glencar, Co. Sligo, on the farm of Francis and Bernie Gonley.

Frank Campion of Teagasc was there; he spoke about the options available to farmers to finish this year’s crop of lambs.

“The key message that farmers should take from this talk is to have a look at your lambs and weigh a sample of them or all of them if possible.

“This will give you a better idea of what lambs are fit for slaughter and what animals need to be supplemented with extra feed to get them to the required live-weight target of 45kg.

The main priority at this time of year is to have enough grass for breeding ewes. After that, if there is surplus grass, this can be grazed by lighter store lambs.

“Francis usually finishes all of his lambs; however, this year, he had plenty of grass and the majority of his lambs were sold in the mart.

“I would advise farmers if the price is right to sell this year’s store lambs instead of holding onto them for the winter,” Frank added.

Options for farmers:

  • Sell as stores at weaning;
  • Finish after weaning on ad-lib concentrates;
  • Graze lambs until mid-November and sell as stores;
  • Graze until mid-November and finish on ad-lib concentrates; or
  • Finish as light lambs between 12kg and 16kg carcass weight.

Jonathan Molloy of Teagasc spoke about the indoor finishing period and offered advice on what farmers can do with their lambs.

“Lambs need to be gaining one kilo a week over the next six to eight weeks if they are going to reach a target weight of 35kg at the indoor housing period.

A selection of Francis Gonley’s lambs

“When lambs are housed, we can introduce concentrates at 250g/day and build that up gradually to one kilo a day,” he concluded.

Indoor finishing period guidelines:

  • House animals in groups by weight;
  • Allow at least 12 days to allow sheep to adjust to the new diet to prevent digestive upsets;
  • Offer 100g/day of roughage throughout the ad-lib period;
  • Access to a freshwater supply; and
  • Good husbandry is essential.

Finally, Frank spoke about targets farmers should focus on for their store lambs.

“This year has been a great year for grass growth, and farmers should maximise this by allowing lighter lambs to graze these pastures.

“Store lambs should be achieving gains of 220-330g/day. This is in respect of Texel crosses and hill breeds.

“Furthermore, mortality should be kept to a minimum of 3%.

“Most importantly, farmers should be aiming to produce an 18kg carcass suitable for French-spec products,” Frank concluded.

Lamb performance 2019

This year, Francis weaned 200 lambs. On average, his lambs weighed between 4.2kg and 5.0kg.

These lambs achieved a weaning weight of between 23.3kg and 27.6kg. This resulted in an average daily gain (ADG) of between 194g/day for the lighter lambs and 230g/day for heavier lambs.

A budget was completed for finishing lambs, taking into account the cost of rented grazing, while also assessing the store trade, which has been good for lighter store lambs.

Furthermore, lambs weighing between 25kg and 35kg will be retained on grass in the short term. There is a batch of lambs weighing upwards of 40kg that are not far off the target slaughter weight of 45kg.

Concentrate feeding will be introduced to these lambs now and, weather-dependent, they will be housed for a short finishing period.