DARD MANAGEMENT NOTES: Beef and sheep

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Preparation for housing and feeding - Successful ewe housing is based on:

Good ventilation and hygiene

Adequate floor and feed space

Adequate lambing pens

Ventilation: Good ventilation consists of a free flow of fresh air in at the eaves. Providing an adequate open ridge allows the warm air which has risen to exit. This air flow carries the bugs with it keeping the ewes cool, dry, clean and healthy. If ventilation is not sufficient plan to improve before housing.

Hygiene: Thoroughly wash all sheep housing, including pen divisions, before housing and disinfect lambing areas.

Floor space: Unclipped lowland ewes on slats require a space of 1.0 square metre per ewe reducing to 0.9 square metres per ewe for unclipped hill breeds and clipped lowland ewes. Straw bedded ewes require 1.2-1.4 square metres per ewe.

Scanning ewes

Carry out scanning 12 to 14 weeks after introducing the ram to the flock. Scanning helps to identify barren ewes as well as ewes carrying singles, twins or triplets. Separate the flock into appropriate groups based on litter size and body condition and feed accordingly.

Fluke treatment

If not already carried out, consider dosing ewes for fluke using a product effective against adult fluke.

Feeding ewes

Feed ewes high quality silage. Well fermented, high dry matter silage improves silage intake and performance. There is still time to have your silage analysed which will help target the use of concentrates based on lamb numbers and body condition score.

Use a good quality concentrate with a high cereal content and soya bean meal as the main protein source. Sheep minerals should include adequate levels of selenium and vitamin E (recommendation 0.5mg/kg selenium and 150-200 IU/kg of vitamin E). When assessing ration quality, pay attention to protein, oil, ash and fibre contents which are listed as percentages, to ensure a balanced ration. The components within the ration are listed in descending order of quantities included.

Examples of blends/home mixes for feeding sheep in late pregnancy are shown below.

Ration 1

Lightly rolled barley 500 kg

Soya bean meal 250 kg

Sugar beet pulp 225 kg

Minerals and vitamins 25 kg

Ration 2

Lightly rolled barley 350 kg

Sugar beet pulp 250 kg

Maize meal/whole (not ground / milled) 100 kg

Soya bean meal 200 kg

Protected soya 50 kg

Molasses 25 kg

Minerals and vitamins 25 kg

BEEF

Selection of cattle for slaughter

Regularly check beef cattle approaching finishing for fat cover. Pay particular attention to stock from crosses involving the more traditional breeds such as Hereford or Angus. They can become over fat quickly, especially at higher levels of concentrate feeding.

Check fat cover at three sites – the ribs, loin and tail head. Aim to slaughter at fat class 3. Animals should always be restrained when handling and it is preferable to assess fat cover on the left side.

Ribs – if light pressure is required with a flat hand to feel the rib bones this would indicate fat class 3.

Loin – over the loin area firm muscle can be confused with fat. Grip the edge of the loin between the thumb and finger and check for a thin layer of fat over the bones. The bones are easily felt in under-finished animals.

Tail head – this is the area most producers rely on to determine the correct level of finish. Press the tail head with the finger tips. A light covering of fat means the animal is ready for slaughter. If fat cover is easily visible over the tail head the animal is probably over-finished.

Always sell beef cattle when they reach the correct level of finish. As cattle get older they are less efficient feed converters, therefore holding beef animals too long is likely to have a negative effect on profit margins.