Overstayer lambs

overstayer lambs

Wow what an unusual situation we are in! Not one of us would have predicted this at the start of the new decade. One of farming's biggest challenges at the moment is the difficulty of getting stock off farm. It is affecting all farming businesses at present, as meat works develop systems to protect their teams and keep the work flowing. The outcome has been a much reduced flow.

With regard to having more lambs on farm now and looking into the uncertain future - we have to focus on keeping them in condition till they are ready to go.

Some things you may need to consider for your lamb-overstayers are;

Thankfully most farmers have experienced less fly pressure this year. That's a big positive to take from our current season. Internal parasites however, have not taken a year off. This is the time of year when the pasture larval challenge can be near its highest. While the lovely weather we are having right now is brilliant for pasture growth (and our mental health) it is absolutely ideal for parasites. With most overstayers waiting to go to the works now is not the time to have them go backwards or get daggy and need another crutching.

We would encourage you to either stick to your 28 day drenching, or monitor through frequent Faecal Egg Counts (5-7 days) and drench at a trigger point. DO NOT just stretch out the drench interval without monitoring! And be aware that a high larvae intake can have a severe negative impact on the animal BEFORE the FEC comes up. If in any doubt drench at 28 days. We recommend triples or a knock out drench at this time of year. Keep in mind that space at the works is uncertain, so choose the option that balances withhold periods with the needs of your lambs.

This is a good topic to discuss with your vet. We are on the end of the phone if you want to discuss this (and have a new online order system).

Clostridial Disease
With more ‘prime’ lambs on farm, we are at higher risk of losing lambs to Pulpy Kidney. We all know that when we lose a lamb to Pulpy, it will be a lamb almost ready for the works. So disappointing! Consider what protection/vaccine these lambs have had - give us a call if you're unsure if they need another shot.

Trace Elements
As usual B12 is essential for energy production, and vital for optimal growth and performance. Be aware that stock supplemented with long acting B12 injections earlier are likely at the end of the supplementation period. Often a half shot is given at tailing and that will get the lambs through to sale. If they are low in B12 they are unable to extract the energy out of the feed efficiently. So essentially every second mouthful is wasted. Not what you want when feed is at a premium.

There are a number of options for supplementation - we have plenty of 5in1 +B12 available. Selenium is also a consideration - particularly if lambs have not been getting mineralised drench during the year.

This is a biggie! Many farmers are really worried about feeding these extra mouths in the coming months. Rest assured that you are not in this boat alone!

It is a time where we will need to change our expectations. We are always working towards good lamb growth rates - targets of 200, or 400 grams per day may be in your mind. However, many of the lambs you have-on now are already well grown. We may need to readjust our thinking from lamb growth, to lamb maintenance.

A 35kg lamb needs 0.9kg of Dry Matter (DM) each day to maintain its weight. But if growing at 150grams per day it needs another 0.6kg of feed. When multiplied out these numbers are significant;

Say you have 500 lambs currently at 35kg:

  • To keep them at this weight they will need 450kg of DM/day (maintenance).
  • To keep them growing at 150g/day they will need 750kg of DM/day.
Growth rates taken from Beef & Lamb 400 Plus publication 2010 for weather/ram lambs.
You are all experts at managing limited feed. Think of how you get through the winter restricting feeding and supplementing as needed. These are the skills that you need to get into action ASAP.

Feed Balance
Techniques for feed budgeting vary but they are all essentially asking the questions:

  • How much feed do I need?
  • And how much feed do I have?

You will all have your own way of assessing this. If you think you need to improve your system and/or accuracy then seek advice. There are lots of freely available tools and a good place to start is with the Beef and Lamb website. If you need help navigating around here, or would like assistance please get in touch with your local VetSouth clinic and we can get the right person to contact you.


Fertiliser application has been deemed an essential service. Get in contact with your fert rep about what options you have. Do consider the use of nitrogen in this unusual situation - even if your philosophy is not to use it - this may just be a case where it might be the best thing to do.

Break Feeding
Break feeding will help you to allocate feed. It is not the time of year when we want to start with temporary fences, but again it might just get you out of trouble. And current under foot conditions are likely to make ‘training’ of hoggets a lot more pleasant.

Hogget Mating
Putting rams with hoggets is still a fair way off, but do consider if it's going to fit into your system this year. With the potential of having more mouths to feed for a longer time period, it may be a good idea to concentrate on only mating the heaviest hoggets this year. The heavier your hoggets are at mating, the less live weight gain required throughout pregnancy to ensure they meet their liveweight targets at lambing time.

Make use of Modern Technology
We are lucky enough to live in an age where even though we may be confined to our own homes we are still able to keep in contact with friends and family. Make use of social media to keep in contact with your usual social group, these are difficult times and mental health will become a concern for a lot of people. You could even think about organising an online woolshed meeting with some of your neighbouring farms and throw some ideas around as to how to manage these next few months better.

The Beef and Lamb site also has some links to a few different online stock sales sites that work as a virtual sales yard. There is also the option of talking to neighbouring farms and people you usually trade stock with to see if anyone is in a position to take on extra mouths to feed.

We really do appreciate that the strain on farming right now is immense. Just because you are able to get out and work, as an essential service, does not mean it is ‘business as usual’. Farmers are doing a wonderful job, using creative thinking and solving problems the best they can. If we can help, in any way, please get in contact with us and we will all get through this together.

- Donna Hamilton


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