Ewe Lamb Blueprint

Husbandry and Nutritional Guidelines for Sheep Giving Birth for the First Time as Yearlings

Project number:                73202

Lead contractor:               ADAS UK Ltd

Start & end date:               01 May 2010 – 31 June 2010

 

The Problem:

The relatively high GHG emissions from sheep production could be reduced by keeping a lower number of unproductive‘ stock in the system.  There is clearly considerable scope to increase the number of sheep that lamb at one year of age and many producers that already lamb their sheep at this age could improve ewe lamb performance.  This class of animal has to be fed and managed in a carefully prescribed way if its lifetime productivity is to be enhanced by lambing at one year of age.

 

Project Aims:

  • To identify the number of sheep currently being lambed as yearlings, and the proportion of the industry that could be lambing ewe lambs.
  • To develop a chronological management guide that would cover the period from birth to their second lambing.
  • To produce six case studies: four who lamb ewe lambs and two that have stopped

 

Approach:

All relevant literature on lambing ewe lambs was reviewed, with husbandry requirements and nutritional needs of ewe lambs, and the financial implications being the focus.

 

Results:

For a lowland spring lambing flock that breeds its own replacements or buys in ewe lambs then sheep lambing as yearlings instead of two years of age would reduce the amount of GHG generated per kg of carcase meat by about 9.4%. Under good management and in the right circumstances, lambing ewes as yearlings is also likely to improve the financial viability of sheep systems while at the same time reducing the number of breeding females kept (gross margin increase of £35.30).  It is estimated that that up to about 55% of English lowland flock replacement females could give birth at one year of age – the current situation is about 30%.  Possible barriers include limited housing space so can‘t split to manage them separately, extended lambing and more labour required for lambing ewe lambs.

 

Planned activity:

  • Article in Farmers Weekly on breeding from ewe lambs
  • Update ewe fertility manual, and used as part of fertility presentation