Devil is in the Detail: Finishing Lambs Off Grass

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Growth checks post weaning have a significant impact on lamb lifetime performance especially as slower growth can mean missing key markets. 

Post-weaning checks typically have a direct impact on daily live weight gain in lambs and it is almost impossible to recover this lost performance later so having a knock-on effect on finishing times as well as potentially devaluing final carcase prices.

Grazing is quite clearly the most cost-effective way to rear and finish lambs yet following the slow start to spring grass growth the recent extended hot, dry weather across the bulk of the UK has also had an effect on grass growth rates.  This means that we may experience further decreases in lamb growth rates prior to weaning as ewe’s milk supply decreases in response to dwindling grazing.

It is also important to remember that pastures can be lacking in macro- and micro-nutrition vital to helping youngstock thrive.  It is easy to concentrate on the macro-nutrients of energy and protein and overlook micro-nutrients such as trace elements, but the supply of these elements even in small quantities can have a large impact on performance and economic returns.

Understanding the limitations of grazing is key to ensuring the correct supplementation is supplied.  This becomes more important as lambs grow and dependence on grazing intakes increase and nutrient supply from ewes’ milk reduces as the lamb naturally weans itself.

Independent forage and soil analysis will help identify where grazing and soils, respectively, may be lacking in vital nutrients. As an example, much of the UK’s grazing area is cobalt deficient, especially if liming practices have been implemented and this element is key to the animal converting the energy it consumes. Countering the deficiencies on your farm will unlock more of the potential growth of stock and improve utilisation of forages too.

Where results show a lack of trace elements, vitamins or minerals, drenching lambs with Nettex Sheep Conditioning Drench or Nettex Cobalt Selenium and B12 drench, can help fill the potential nutritional gap from a change in the diet. Continuing to drench lambs at six to eight week intervals after this, will help ensure lambs have the nutritional supply to match demand going forward.

Nettex Drenches are specifically formulated to include cobalt, selenium, vitamin E and vitamin B12.  Drenching can provide essential nutrition and help balance diets at an age when feed efficiency is at its greatest. It’s a practical, cost effective tool to ensure growing stock perform to the best of their ability meaning you are supporting your animal’s performance potential this summer.