Growth checks post weaning are a major factor effecting Daily Live Weight Gain (DLWG) in lambs, as it’s almost impossible to recover this lost performance later on. This devalues final carcase prices, as well as providing a knock on effect leading to longer finishing times.
Jonathan Stephens farms in partnership with his parents in Devon, and has found that grassland management is key, especially keeping a close eye on trace elements, to finish 1500 lambs and 400 store cattle all on grass.
Mr Stephens highlights that this system requires close watch of his fields. “You can’t get too complacent, we use clover friendly fertilisers and keep trace element levels correct.”
He especially focuses on cobalt. “It’s extremely hard to fixate cobalt into the ground and ensure optimum levels. We haven’t done blood tests, we just know they need it from visual checks.
“Cobalt is one of the main reasons why lambs don’t grow as quickly as people like, it’s an important trace element for finishing.”
Mr Stephens uses Nettex Cob-I-Sel bolus’s to balance trace elements and says this has improved feed efficiency. “We give the bolus to lambs at weaning, which stops the growth check and helps during the transitional period.
“The bolus is so small it doesn’t damage the lamb’s mouth, and you don’t want that as it stops them eating grass. We only give one bolus at weaning, and this seems to see them through”
Nettex technical manager, Nia Williams adds, “It’s great to hear of a farmer paying such close attention to the trace element needs of their flock. The majority of UK grazing is cobalt deficient, especially if liming practices have been used, so Mr Steven’s practice could be applicable to farms all over the UK.”
This close attention to trace elements is just one of the many techniques this innovative young farmer uses to ensure his lambs are sold early and beat the market trend.