We are far from having "good" pastures, but even now we are having a hiccup we need to find a solution to that I will discuss later in this blog. Firstly, a sign of good pastures, like it is for crops, is that it is a tabletop. It is so level that you cannot tell if there is a change of soil types underneath.
Because we are not yet at our target stocking rate of 30 ewes/ha, and are therefore using less fertiliser than we will be using in the future, we have pastures that look like this.
Spring can hide these deficiencies as seen in the photos below. It will be a sign to me that I have the nutrition about right for pasture growth when they are a tabletop at all times of the year.
Though the pastures are far from perfect, they are still creating a problem we need to find a solution too very quickly. Since early August, we have gone from a few weaned lambs scouring, to ~90% of them scouring very badly. So much so that they have been losing weight and some have died. We had been giving them straw and hay, but it was clearly not enough.
Yes they are all regularly drenched with multiple modes of action and that has not been stopping the scours. There is too much protein in the pastures, and not enough carbohydrates or roughage in it. There are sheep that are having no problems whatsoever and are flourishing, but too many are really struggling despite them having abundant feed.
The solution? After discussions with our vet and some sheep nutrition experts, we need to introduce carbs to the lambs about a week before weaning via pellets and/or oats (maybe with a little barley in it). After weaning, we will continue to provide the weaners with pellets and/or oats/barley for another two weeks. Apparently this will get their rumen in better shape to be able to cope with lush pastures. I would love to receive emails from anyone who can confirm this will work or not, or have other suggestions. Please email me at email@example.com .
Of course the long term solution is to select genetics that can thrive in our system, however we need to build our numbers up ASAP. By August/September 2023, we should be close to our target of ~5,500 ewes and then we will be culling any animal that scours, no matter whether it is from worms or lush pastures. We will not be able to carry that number of sheep unless we grow the pasture, so there will always be well fed pastures in the future.
There are clearly genetic differences that we can keep selecting for that can cope with lush pastures. Just think of all those sheep in areas like New Zealand, Wales, Ireland etc where the summer pastures are very lush and high protein. Those sheep thrive on those pastures. At the moment we have sheep from a range of sources and not all of them can cope with high protein pastures. The vet thinks we can solve most of the problem by concentrating on getting the weaners rumen functioning better before they come off their mums. So we will try that in the coming weeks when we prepare to wean the next batch of lambs. If it works, that will be fantastic, but we will still cull in the future any animal that scours.
In others news, we continue to acquire rams with known worm resistance (most are -50 and the best is -69 PWEC). 1st October 2022 is when our ewes begin to lamb for the second time this year. They are in great condition so we are very happy with these at the moment. Rams go into all ewe mobs on 30th October. We want them to lamb again 25th March and into April when we have spring like conditions (usually). Rams will go back in again on 30th April.