While we missed the worst of the much-vaunted “Arctic Vortex”, it has been very cold with more frosts than we’ve seen for many years. It’s also dry, and pasture growth has been negligible. Importantly, the outlook for a reasonable spring diminishes with each passing dry week.
WECs have generally remained much the same as last month: ewes approaching lambing are blowing out a bit, as are some mobs of merino weaners. XB ewes still away off lambing are generally robust.
Of concern is a drop in ewe body condition in some mobs. This not only predisposes to parasitism, but has profound impact on lactation. Through sheer scale some properties are unable/unwilling to supplement heavily. For the others, and that is most of you, don’t skimp on supplements. The difference in amounts required to maintain a ewe at CS3 compared with CS2 is negligible.
Because of the dry and cold many planned lambing paddocks will be below par when lambing starts. This increases the risk of severe parasitism in both ewes and lambs. Light, parasitised ewes milk poorly, which forces lambs to graze early. We have seen lambs as young as 4 weeks with clinical parasitism. If you have not used a long acting product pre-lambing be prepared to drench at lamb marking. If the ewes need drenching, so will the lambs.
Finally, in the summer and autumn we saw our first cases of Haemonchus (barber’s pole worm) in the midlands. All cases were in meat sheep run extensively on irrigation. Because the ewes on these properties are generally as fat as Labrador pups they don’t always get a pre-lambing drench. This year I would give a pre-lambing drench, regardless of whether the ewes are fat, and the amount of tucker going forward is good.