How top third flocks produce more lambs

Higher lambing percentages, fewer empty ewes and increased growth rates drove an extra 11% of output in top third English lowland flocks, said Eblex.

A lamb
A lamb

Higher lambing percentages, fewer empty ewes and increased growth rates drove an extra 11% of output, or £11.50 per ewe, in the top third English lowland flocks compared with average-performing enterprises, according to Eblex’s Stocktake Report.

Gross output after replacement costs was £104.69 for top flocks compared with £93.19 in average flocks.

The physical performance data collected shows average lowland flocks produce 153 live lambs born alive per 100 ewes tupped, whereas the top third flocks ranked on net margin produce 165 lambs.

Similar lamb mortality rates mean the top third flocks end up with 12 more lambs per 100 ewes to sell or keep as replacements, according to AHDB/Eblex senior analyst Carol Davis.

Eblex senior livestock scientist Liz Genever advised that key to achieving higher lamb numbers was a higher scanning percentage and fewer empty ewes.

“This could be helped by body condition score management from weaning to ensure ewes are at target condition score of 3.5 for tupping,” she said.

Mrs Davis added that top third flocks also achieve 1.3kg higher average liveweights for lambs finished, sold as stores or moved into the replacement enterprise, and the average age of sale or transfer is 12 days younger at 128 days.

Dr Genever said improved lamb growth rates in top third flocks were not driven by higher creep feed use.

“The amount of creep used was similar at 8kg per lamb, so it’s likely that use of good genetics, better grassland management and good parasite control drives higher growth rates.”

This higher output is achieved with lower labour costs. Paid and unpaid labour amounts to £32.37 per ewe for average flocks and £24.33 for top third flocks, Mrs Davis said.

“This £8 a ewe difference is not related to lambing percentages or lamb losses, although some of the reduction in unpaid labour costs can be attributed to top third flocks being 30% bigger. It can also be worth considering whether it is more cost-effective to use contractors for specialist tasks rather than having the equipment and doing the tasks yourself,” Mrs Davis said.

Dr Genever also suggested analysing the system to see what you can do differently.

“Identify where labour is spent and ask yourself questions, such as could you take the sheep to the feed, rather than the feed to the sheep.

“Keeping sheep on a smaller area so they are quicker to check and gather can also save time and it’s better for grassland management to graze off a small area and then move them.

“Investing in handling systems can also be cost-effective,” she advised.

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