My mate Darcy looks after a property in north-east Tasmania. During the 2007 dry, Darcy commented that his cow would only give powdered milk. The other day, he reckoned it was skimmed powdered milk. Thing is, Darcy is in one of the better parts of the state. The central midlands look distinctly bare, the east coast likewise. The Derwent Valley and Bothwell area are fair to good on the back of extraordinary snowfalls.
Spring growth has been sufficient to provide dry-sheep tucker, but lactating ewes are struggling. Many people cease feeding grain when the lambs arrive, citing the damage caused by disturbance. You can feed lambing ewes, you know. A few mismotherings is inconsequential to weaning manky lambs that have gotten nothing from the teat. In previous droughts we’ve seen clinical parasitism in lambs as young as 4 weeks. Have a look at your lambs: chances are that many are grazing. If they are malnourished by the ewe they will graze more, and be vulnerable to worms.
Overall, the worm situation has remained quiet. WECs from ewes just before marking have been generally OK. Most producers should avoid a lamb marking drench, but if you have high counts and daggy, poor ewes they should be drenched. If you drench the ewes, drench the lambs. This means that the lamb marking table will be as busy as a one-armed checkout chick (with crabs), but so be it.
The next step is to consider early weaning: we’re talking 8–10 weeks after the start of lambing. Lambs heavier than 8 kg have good survival weights, and their progress on adequate green tucker will be better than competing with their mothers for a mouthful of stale noodles and a cup of milk. Ewes do not milk as well off their backs as cattle. In the most severe cases, consider weaning lambs onto grain in a drought lot. This is a bit specialised, so get good advice.
Finally, a reminder about fly treatments at marking. My rule of thumb is that any sheep mulesed after 20th Oct should get fly treatment. At this stage there is nothing to suggest it will be a big fly season. Quite the contrary: it is dry and cold (we’ve had 3 frosts this week—the 19th of Sept). However, a few good showers can change that. A client told me he did not use pain relief because it would wash the Clik from the wound. But the pain relief (Trisolfen) should go on the wound, and the Clik onto the wool around the edges. Works a treat. Remember the long ESI for the pain relief and the Clik.