Ram breeding decisions

It may seem early to be talking about ram breeding decisions, but given there is a solid demand for cull ewes and that the appetite for rams may be boosted by the upcoming festival of Eid al-Adha (9 to 13 July), it is worth assessing if rams are still fit for purpose and also assessing ewes.

In most cases rams will not have received any attention since last year’s breeding season and useful aspects to assess include the condition of teeth. With this assessment it is also worth rubbing your hands along the jawline to check that there are no molar teeth protruding.

Other standard checks include any mobility issues / injuries while the performance of the ram’s progeny should also be judged.

Questions should also be raised regarding rams that have struggled to regain condition despite being offered a satisfactory plane of nutrition. This should raise alarm bells, in particular where the ram in question is being used to breed flock replacements.

For early lambing flocks now is also an opportune time to check body condition so that steps can be taken to ensure rams are fit for breeding and also to carry out a full pre-breeding assessment.

It is not just mature rams that should be assessed, a thorough review should also take place of ram lambs born in 2022 that are potentially destined for sale as breeding rams.

The high cost of bringing rams through to sale on many farms should be considered. Where there is any doubt that rams will struggles to secure a price that covers costs and delivers a worthwhile margin, steps should be taken.

Store lamb presentation

While there are lots of reservations on the performance of the store lamb trade later this year in light of higher concentrate costs, early indications from mart managers are positive.

Buyers are starting to appear for the small numbers presented to date. Those who purchased early in 2021 fared relatively well, and mart managers report there is also some interest from cattle farmers slow to re-stock with what some regard as expensive stores.

Customers are seeking lambs presented in even batches on size, weight, type and gender. Ideally there should not be a range in weight of more than 5kg between the heaviest and lightest lamb in the group, while lamb cleanliness always has a positive effect on enticing greater competition.

Store lamb producers will need to gauge the market to see if forecasts for early in the season ring true of higher demand for wether over ram lambs.

Replenishing nutrients

While fertiliser prices are high, it is important to try and target organic and chemical manures to replenish nutrients in ground that has been cut for silage or hay.

As a guide, a yield of three bales per acre will remove 30 units N, 4.8 units P and 30 units K. This increases to 40 units N, 6.4 units P and 40 units K for four bales per acre and a similar increase to five bales per acre.

Slurry and farmyard manure should also be used strategically with 1,000 gallons of cattle slurry typically containing 7 units N (halved in summer), 5 units P and 30 units K. An application of 1t FYM contains 2.7 units N, 2.4 P and 12 K.