Lambing is my annual harvest no different to an apple grower, viticulturist bringing in the grapes or a cropping farming with his combine harvester.
And like these, of all the production cycle, the time of harvest is the time carrying the most risk from the weather but more on this later.
I’ve always relished the prospect of lambing and doing everything I can to get all the ducks in a row to give my girls the best opportunity to get as many live lambs on the deck as possible.
When one goes through the list of actions that we shepherds notch up to achieve this objective, it’s not a bad effort.
Starting with identifying and then getting the best genetics possible.
The hoggets or 2ths need to be vaccinated for toxoplasmosis and campylobacter well before ram introduction.
Next challenge is to get the flock up to decent weights and preferably no ewes with a condition score below 3. This can be difficult following summer or autumn droughts but in these years the worm challenges are low so it is swings and roundabouts.
The sudden turnaround in our fortunes at the beginning of March when it started raining and never stopped meant many of us ended up with excellent scanning figures.
Some years ago, I was a contributing farmer in a big trial looking at factors influencing bearings and in the end the only valid recommendation was to get the extra weight off the ewes in that first trimester. I do this robustly and at the same time able to use the flock to clean up after a growthy autumn like we have just had.
I take about half a condition score off the ewes and it seems to work as to date I’ve lost just 5 bearing ewes from 1450 and this after having been fed very well in the final trimester and throughout lambing.
With the high-performance genetics, we have now, it is very important to feed the ewes properly in those final 4-5 weeks before due date. There are so many more twins and triplets on board than the sheep of 3 decades ago that it can be a disaster if you don’t.
My multiples are being fed almost ad lib and they consume a lot of feed. I’m comforted that as I shift them throughout July, the 1100-1200 kg DM/ha that is left behind will still be there for set stocking at lambing.
I’m endeavouring to grow decent sized lambs, build a big udder to maximise lamb growth and of course keep those vulnerable ewes steaming along.
So there needs to be a good feed wedge going into July whatever conditions have been served up and all the sciences behind feed budgeting, subdivision, perhaps the use of a bit of strategic nitrogen and rationing.
This year it seems to have all fallen into place.
Just as my ewes started lambing at the beginning of August, for us the tap turned off. I know it has remained miserable elsewhere which will have made it difficult for almost every other region and I do feel sorry for you.
Here it remained wet underfoot but we have had less than 20mm of rain through August which surely must be a first and I haven’t had a single death from exposure. Likely to culminate in a record lambing % to bore my mates for years to come.