Lambing rates should not be thought of a measure of productivity, or profit. Aside from the fact that we’re dealing with animals here, livestock reproduction is subject to so many variables. It’s not just what you feed your flock -- how much room do they have in the paddock? How often are they in social isolation? With these and many more factors to consider, here’s our top tips for improving lambing rates:
There’s no point striving for higher lambing rates if you aren’t equipped to monitor them correctly. Just as you would set KPI’s in a company or profit margins for a store, there are certain benchmarks that have proven effective for achieving higher lambing rates.
● Optimum fertility for your flock - influenced by your farming system, availability and quality of grass and silage and labour and skill level.
● Managing raw flock data - How many of your own ewes were transferred in, and how many were replaced? What was their age and weight at sale? Organising this data is crucial for setting lambing benchmarks.
● Highlighting genetic potential - genes hugely affect how an individual animal performs in a flock. Make sure you keep up to date with new lamb genetic research to know how ewe health and feed use could affect the genetic traits of your flock.
Health and Hygiene
Lambing rates are affected by how many animals reach full term. The major hurdles for you in this regard are disease management, maternal behaviour and lamb vigour. Lamb nutrition and health planning are both exceptionally complex subjects, but in general you need to anticipate how any upset could affect the long term health of a lamb.
For example, if you’re able to successfully carry out an enzootic abortion, you then need to initiate a vaccination program. You then also need to make sure this does not conflict with any pre-tupping vaccination, so that you aren’t treating pregnant ewes with vaccines.
Every health risk should be thought of in the context of fertility. Low body weight is not only a sign of poor health conditions, but it can delay their breeding cycle and the onset of the breeding season (particularly in ewes).
Bearing the budget in mind
Finally, also be vigilant about your margins. An increase in output should not also lead to a disproportionate increase in labour costs, supplies etc.
Ram cost per lamb will inevitably vary greatly, depending on the ewe, ram ratio and ram longevity. “Compact calving periods” (i.e. reducing labour costs for a set timeframe) is still hotly debated in terms of its benefits, but many agree it’s still overall beneficial for flock management - leading to greater feed utilisation and increased profitability.