• Effects of extended grazing during mid, late or throughout pregnancy, and winter shearing of housed ewes, on ewe and lamb performance

      Keady, Tim; Hanrahan, James P; Flanagan, S. (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2007)
      A flock of March-lambing ewes was used to evaluate the effects of (i) extended (deferred, winter) grazing of pasture during mid, late or throughout pregnancy, and (ii) winter shearing of ewes housed during mid and late pregnancy, on lamb birth weight and subsequent growth to weaning. Ewes (n = 265) were allocated at random to five treatments for the period from 7 December (~ day 47 of pregnancy) to lambing. The treatments were: housed shorn (HS), housed unshorn (HU), grazing throughout (EG), grazing to 20 January followed by housing (EGH), housed to 20 January followed by grazing (HEG). From 1 March to lambing the HEG and EG ewes were dispersed on the paddocks intended for grazing post lambing. All ewes were offered a concentrate supplement during the final 6 weeks of pregnancy. Housed ewes were offered grass silage while ewes on extended grazing were allocated 1.3 kg herbage dry matter per head per day from swards that had been closed for approximately 10 weeks. Ewes plus lambs (except triplet-rearing ewes which were grazed separately) from all treatments were grazed together post lambing, grouped according to lambing date. For treatments HS, HU, EGH, HEG and EG gestation lengths were 147.0, 145.6, 146.3, 146.6 and 146.9 (s.e. 0.34, P < 0.001) days, lamb birth weights were 4.9, 4.3, 4.4, 4.6 and 5.0 (s.e. 0.10, P < 0.001) kg, and lamb weaning weights were 34.6, 32.1, 33.3, 33.8 and 34.9 (s.e. 0.66, P < 0.001) kg, respectively. Extended grazing in mid and late pregnancy resulted in 35% and 65%, respectively, of the increase in lamb birth weight associated with extended grazing throughout. Treatment effects on lamb birth weight were associated with those on weaning weight (P < 0.01, R2 = 0.93). It is concluded that extended grazing or shearing of housed ewes increased lamb birth weight and subsequent weaning weight. The increased lamb birth weight from deferred grazing in mid pregnancy was probably due to improved protein utilisation from the grazed herbage. Meanwhile, the increased
    • An evaluation of two grassland-based systems of mid-season prime lamb production using prolific ewes of two genotypes

      Keady, Tim; Hanrahan, James P; Flanagan, S. (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2009)
      A 4-year study was undertaken to evaluate the effects of two contrasting management systems [year-round grazing (YRG) and normal seasonal grazing followed by indoor feeding during winter (GWF)] on performance of mid-season lambing ewes. On the GWF system, the annual stocking rate was 14.4 ewes/ha, grass silage was conserved for winter feeding indoors, and the ewes were lambed indoors and were then turned out to pasture. The YRG system was stocked at 10.5 ewes/ha, was grazed during the winter, had outdoor lambing and the animals had access to all the farmlet for summer grazing. The ewes were Belclare and Cheviot × Belclare which were balanced across systems. Mean lambing dates and fertiliser N application rates were 20 and 30 March, and 85 and 92 kg/ha, for the GWF and YRG systems, respectively. Concentrate supplementation during late pregnancy was similar on both systems. For the GWF and YRG systems, litter size, lamb mortality, number of lambs reared, birth weight (kg), weaning weight (kg) and lamb carcass output (kg/ha) were 2.17 and 2.24 (s.e. 0.038), 10.1 and 13.8% (P = 0.05), 1.77 and 1.78 (s.e. 0.042), 4.0 and 4.7 (s.e. 0.05, P < 0.001), 27.9 and 30.8 (s.e. 0.25, P < 0.001) and 469 and 348, respectively. Belclare ewes had a higher litter size (2.34 v 2.07; s.e. 0.038, P < 0.001) and number of lambs reared per ewe joined (1.86 v 1.69; s.e. 0.048, P < 0.01) than the Cheviot × Belclare ewes. There were no significant interactions between system and ewe breed type. It is concluded that the YRG system of prime lamb production was sustainable using prolific ewes but at a reduced stocking rate (−26%) and with greater lamb mortality relative to the GWF system. Ewe genotypes with a mean litter size of up to 2.34 lambs are suitable for both systems. Lamb carcass output of 501 kg/ha was achieved from a primarily grass-based system of mid-season prime lamb production using prolific ewes (Belclare).