Drafting lambs

Reports on the slaughter performance of lambs are variable. This is not surprising given the challenging weather and is apparent in live sales where there is a significant difference in the finish of lambs presented.

Any easing in the price such as we are seeing this week often prompts producers to move lambs quicker.

It is important to handle lambs regularly, both to avoid drafting underfinished lambs, and also to select lambs suitable for slaughter and draft at the higher prices available.

Young, well fleshed lambs will kill out in the region of 50%, while lambs which have received lower levels of feeding will kill back to 47% to 48%, and even lower for aged lambs.

If in doubt, it may be worth drafting a selection to gauge slaughter performance and delay drafting lambs which you think may be at risk of killing underweight or underfleshed.

The same goes for hoggets, with some tail-end supplies coming on to the market.

The marketing of sheep is also an important consideration. While both the live and deadweight trade have eased in recent days, it is still worth considering the type of lamb on hand and the outlet that has the best chance of returning the best price.

Commission rates also need to be factored in to account in decisions. The same can be said of cull ewes, with a significant differential for heavy ewes in particular.

Weed control in ACRES

While grass growth rates remain below normal, growth of weeds seems to be thriving.

Spraying is generally a better option for treatment of weeds, docks and nettles as by the time they have reached a height for treatment with a weed licker/wiper, they have often progressed beyond the optimum stage for treatment.

However, where weeds are growing in species rich swards, then spot treatment is the best option where there is a risk to plant biodiversity. For the same reason weed wiping/licking is preferred to spraying for rushes in many such areas.

This consideration is growing in importance under schemes such as the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES), where it can influence payment rates. It is also important to remember there is a continued spotlight on herbicide use and water quality.

In this regard, it is vital to follow recommended guidelines and only apply product when conditions are suitable, and dispose of any containers or spray wash in the appropriate manner.

For docks, nettles and thistles, the recommended timing for treatment is what is known as the rosette stage. This is when plants are at a height of 100mm to 250mm (6” to 10”) for docks and nettles, and a height of around 200mm (8”) for thistles.

Dates for diary

The Irish Grassland Association is holding a free farm event on the farm of mother and son duo, Margaret and Jack Stevenson, located midway between Castlefinn and Killygordon, Co Donegal on 14 May at 6pm.

The mixed farm runs a mid-season lambing flock of 500 ewes alongside a 30-cow suckler herd. More information on the event sponsored by Mullinahone Co-op will be published in next week’s paper.

Grass tetany

Weather conditions deteriorating again and temperatures falling can be a trigger for grass tetany. Ensure high-risk sheep have access to sufficient magnesium supplementation.