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Quality grass now will reduce meal required to finish lambs

The majority of weaning of March-born lambs has already been done. Some first drafting of lambs for sale has taken place or is getting underway. Andy Ryder, Teagasc Advisor Westport takes a look at your market options, while Edward Egan, Teagasc Advisor Navan discusses finishing lambs from grass

July is a critical month for sheep farmers to endeavour to make a decent profit from this year’s lamb crop. Most March born lambs are weaned around late June-early July and it is usually the first month of the year where much needed cash is generated from the sale of the first draft of lambs prior to weaning. Go through your flock to see how well your lambs have performed pre-weaning. Ideally, there should have been a number of lambs drafted for slaughter already and a large portion of the lamb crop should weigh approximately 33-34kgs live weight. This provides more options on how you can market these lambs in the coming weeks.

Quality Grass

What farmers need to focus on now is to provide these lambs with quality leafy grass post-weaning, in order to produce cheap live weight gain. The ideal situation would be to have aftergrass available to coincide with weaning or have a portion of the farm topped and nice young leafy grass available. Attempt to move the lambs regularly to fresh grass and use dry ewes or cattle to clean out paddocks. The aim is to be able to draft lambs on three week intervals, selecting lambs for slaughter on the basis of weight and fat cover. Over-fat lambs are costly while thin lambs will kill out poorly, reducing lamb value.


From speaking to farmers, numerous farms have not applied any fertiliser since April. To boost grass growth on farms, a certain level of fertiliser should be applied. This will result in good grass growth. Fertiliser prices have fallen recently so make sure to shop around.


Faecal egg counts for stomach worms have risen rapidly during June. When treating lambs for stomach worms, it is advisable to get a faecal egg count done after drenching, to ensure that the wormer is still working on your farm. Samples should be taken either seven days (for levamisole-based products) or 14 days (all other products) after the lambs have been treated. Discuss the results with your vet.


The level of lameness on some farms can be very high post-weaning and is often a major factor in poor lamb performance during this period. Each farm needs to have a proper system in place to deal with lameness.

Marketing lambs

With the price of meal in recent weeks rising and further price rises projected, farmers need to look at their options regarding how they are going to market their lambs. Every farmer’s situation is different, depending on weight of lambs, stocking rate, grass quality and availability, fertiliser usage and cash flow availability. What was done in previous years may not be the best option this year.  Options may include.

  1. Finish all lambs by looking to introduce meal at low levels, to complement grass availability and boost fat cover. Introducing 300g of meal per day will bring forward finishing date by a month.
  2. Sell 1st and 2nd drafts as finished lambs and start selling stores in late July when demand is high. Current indications are that the store lamb trade is offering good return.
  3. Split up lambs into male and females and separate. Premiums have been paid for quality breeding-type ewe lambs.

Regardless of the choice you make in terms of moving lambs off farm, keep them thriving up to point of sale on quality grass.

Avoid over-reliance on expensive meal, when you can meet the lamb requirements with grass.

Finishing lambs from grass

Watch the video below in which Edward Egan, Teagasc Drystock Advisor explains that one of the biggest challenges for sheep farmers is to finish lambs as quickly as possible from grass.

Teagasc Advisors are regular contributors of articles here on Teagasc Daily. If you require any help or advice on this topic or about other aspects of sheep farming contact your local advisor at your Teagasc Advisory Office here: Advisory Regions

Teagasc Sheep Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to sheep farmers on Tuesdays here on Teagasc Daily. Find out more from Teagasc here about Sheep