Record lamb crop predicted for 2016

Sheep producers across Northern Ireland are telling Farming Life that a record lamb crop is on the cards for 2016. A case in point is John Martin, at Gordonall Farm, located on the outskirts of Greyabbey in Co Down. Based on scanning results, he is predicting that a 200% lambing percentage may well be achieved across his 620-strong ewe flock. But, like every other sheep farmer, he is not counting his chickens until all of this year’s lambs are on the ground.

“The 150 early ewes had a lambing rate of 214%,” he said.

“And we could be looking at a similar figure with the rest of the flock. The main group of ewes will lamb throughout March. We have secured these types of figures before with mature ewes. But what has really caught the eye this year is the performance of our ewe lambs. They are on target to achieve a lambing rate of around 148%: we have never secured this level of output before from such young animals.”

The Martin ewe flock contains a mix of Belclare, Lleyn, Highlander and Romney bloodlines. John attributes the high lambing rates now being achieved to the excellent grazing conditions that prevailed last back end. It was quite a straightforward task to have the ewes in the right condition when the rams went in last year. We aim to have them at a body conditions score of around 3.75 prior to breeding. This was quite easily achieved in 2015, given the very heavy swards of grass that were available on the farm last autumn.”

Giving birth to lambs is one thing: keeping them alive and thriving is something else altogether. John confirmed that all triplets born on the farm are fed either Provita lamb Colostrum or home sourced cow colostrum at birth.

“The same approach is taken with twins born to ewe lambs,” he said. “It’s important to ensure that all newborns get the best possible start.”

Provita’s Tommy Armstrong was a recent visitor to the Martin family farm. He confirmed the recent launch of the company’s Jump Start nutritional supplement, specifically developed to provide newborn lambs with beneficial sources of immediately available and slow release energy.

“Jump Start is high in energy, egg powder and minerals and vitamins to boost newborn lambs,” Tommy explained.

“It will help get them up and going quickly. Jump Start counteracts common nutritional deficiencies giving lambs the best possible start in life.

“It contains 14 different types of minerals and vitamins with very high levels of Vitamin E and Selenium. Two pumps, provides a 4 ml feed from the automatic dispenser will ensure that newborn lambs get the nutritional boost they need and get up and going and suck their mother quicker.”