In-lamb Ewes on Swedes

Maximising forage and grassland utilisation through out-wintering in-lamb ewes on swedes

Project number:                    73205

Lead contractor:                   ADAS

Start & end date:                  31 October 2012 – 31 January 2014

 

The Problem:

Although many farms in the UK are now using brassicas and Swedes to maximise returns from their sheep enterprises, there is very little data (including cost/benefit calculations) on the benefits of out-wintering in lamb ewes on these systems.

 

Project Aims:

To demonstrate the practicalities and financial aspects of an outdoor ewe feeding system based on Swedes and grass.

 

Approach:

¢ Monitor ewe performance through body condition scoring, measuring energy and protein statuses in the blood and assessing the general health of the flock (including mortality, lameness and prolapse).

¢ Monitor the swede crop and grassland (control) with nutritional analysis and yield measurements.

¢ Measure lamb growth performance through to slaughter.

¢ Monitoring of all input costs of the enterprise (including crop establishment) from tupping to lamb sales.

 

Deliverables:

A final report and factsheet will be produced which will include ewe and lamb data, gross margin analysis and the full costings of the enterprise with the possible addition of on-farm open days.

 

Approach:

  • Monitor ewe performance through body condition scoring, measuring energy and protein statuses in the blood and assessing the general health of the flock (including mortality, lameness and prolapse).
  • Monitor the swede crop and grassland (control) with nutritional analysis and yield measurements.
  • Measure lamb growth performance through to slaughter.
  • Monitoring of all input costs of the enterprise (including crop establishment) from tupping to lamb sales.

 

Results:

  • A crop such as swedes provides a cost-effective alternative to housing sheep, providing that the crop is grown well on relatively free draining ground
  • The swede crop will maintain, if not slightly increase, the body condition score of ewes during pregnancy provided that the weather is not too extreme
  • The mixture of swedes in mid-pregnancy and grass in the last three to four weeks of pregnancy provides adequate nutrition to the in-lamb ewe provided that lambing is timed to coincide with reliable grass growth
  • The forage based system does not seem to have any adverse effects on animal health
  • Careful management of worm burdens and grass quality is required to maintain higher growth rates than those seen in the project. Once the quality of the grazed grass was lost during the spring it was impossible to regain. This had a knock on effect in that more lambs were left on the farm at the following tupping time
  • Costs of the system are relatively low when compared to a more intensive inside lambing system. This means the number of lambs reared can be substantially lower with the system still providing a profit
  • Increasing the scanning percentage and the rearing percentage of the breeding ewes will continue to improve the profitability of the system. Aiming for targets of 140%-150% lambs reared should be possible with a more prolific ewe or through flushing the ewes with supplements during the late autumn