Spring is here, and for many, thoughts are now moving towards lamb finishing, and crops maturing. But the reality is, the thoughts around lamb finishing should have well and truly started before spring arrived. You are already almost halfway through lamb finishing, with ewes doing so much of the work in a productive sheep operation.
If you haven’t already, you should be identifying your best and worst quality paddocks, so that you can focus your lamb finishing on those paddocks, and identify any deficiencies that exist within your pasture system so that you can start working on those with your agronomist.
When it comes to weaning and lamb finishing, feed quality is king! Clover is a star performer, Lucerne, plantain, chicory are all great, and we can happily use brassicas to give us green feed when nothing else can.
I will use clover as the focus of this because it is the main contributor over the next couple of months. People often wrongly believe that animals perform better on clover because of the protein. That is wrong. As a general rule if we have green feed, we have enough protein. The reason we get such good performance off clover is the low fibre content.
Fibre dictates the time it takes for an amount of feed to pass through an animal. When we find the sweet spot with fibre, around 32% Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF), we can get more energy through that animal in a day. If fibre is too low, such as with brassicas (around 24% NDF) we risk poor absorption of nutrients, as feed just flies through them. If fibre is higher, like with grass dominant pastures (around 45% NDF), the fibre is the limiting factor in how much energy can pass through that animal in a day. Clover just happens to be around 32% fibre. Right where we want it!
It is critical that we manage our high quality feed sources, so that we can get absolute most out of it. Growing a heap of Lucerne for instance, but waiting too long to graze it, will drastically reduce the return from that feed resource. When Lucerne goes woody in the stem, lambs will only eat the leaves. Take a plastic bag out with you, and mimic the grazing habits of your lambs. If they are only nibbling at leaves you will be there for a long time to fill your bag. If they can take big mouthfuls of soft stem and leaf, you will be full in no time.
Use your time now to plan for lamb finishing both this year and into the future. If you don’t have what you need, then get your agronomist in and put together a plan that will make sure you have it when you need it in the future.
Don’t let spring catch you out this year. Wean early so that you can prioritise the very best feed to your lambs, and let the ewes do the grunt work in your grazing management. Make every bit of quality feed work for you this spring!