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Variable lamb growth rates in BETTER sheep flocks

Variable lamb growth rates in BETTER sheep flocks

Frank Campion, of the Teagasc Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Athenry, Co. Galway, reports on growth rates in the BETTER sheep flocks.

Grass growth rates improved in May, as did grass utilisation, helping the BETTER sheep farms to get grazing rotations and management plans in full swing. Some farms have dropped out paddocks with heavy covers for silage to keep control of grass supplies and keep quality grass in front of ewes and lambs. Current targets are to have ewes and lambs going into swards at 8-9cm and out at 4cm. Where possible, dry ewes are being used to clean out paddocks and to keep ewes and lambs moving to fresh grass.


All lowland farms had their lambs weighed in May at approximately seven weeks of age. Lamb growth rates for five of the lowland flocks are presented in Table 1. Growth rates are variable between and within the flocks. This is being investigated but the difficult weather at lambing and during April is a key factor. Flocks where ewe body condition score (BCS) was below target at lambing have been hit hardest, as these ewes didn’t have sufficient body reserves to produce milk to maximise lamb growth rates.

Table 1: Mean lamb performance from the lowland flocks from birth to seven weeks of age, with range in brackets for five of the lowland flocks.

Birth type Birth weight (kg) Growth rate (g/day) Seven-week weight (kg)
1 5.7 (4.8-6.2) 330 (287-380) 22.3 (20.2-26.7)
2 5.0 (4.2-5.6) 254 (228-274) 17.9 (16.6-20.3)
3+* 4.4 (4.0-4.6) 233 (180-248) 16.4 (12.5-17.6)

This article first appeared in the June Teagasc Sheep Advisory newsletter. Access the full publication here.

Also read: Preparation for weaning of lambs