Gimmer lambs: To feed or not to feed?!

Ryan Whyte – Commercial Feed Manager and Sheep Specialist at Carr’s Billington – offers valuable advice on cost-effectively feeding and preparing your gimmer lambs for sale.  

A hot topic in the farming field right now is the viability of feeding gimmer lambs ready for sale, given the higher-than-normal input costs we’re facing as an industry.  

So, the key question we’re facing, is can we feed to develop growth, frame, and bloom at a cost that benefits margins? Is it worth creep feeding lambs?!

Mule gimmers, gimmer hogs, ewe lambs or hoggets are breeding stock typically bred and raised in the uplands in the first part of the year, for lowland farmers to crossbreed fat lambs from in the second part of the year.

The young female breeding lambs are usually fed from weaning – around this time of year – to ensure they are in prime condition for sale in the next few months. With weaning can

come a level of stress that can impact on growth rates. We want to ensure young lambs are going forward well and without a cost that eats too much into our profit margin.

To feed or not to feed, stacking it up

Here at Carr’s Billington, we’ve made trough or snacker feeding not just affordable, but a must, for maximising your breeding stock returns this season, and we’ve done this without compromising our formulation.

Feeding half a kilo of our newly formulated gimmers lamb feed daily for 8-weeks, from weaning to sale, will only cost you from £10.64 per lamb. We’ve formulated our sheep feed prices per tonne to make economic sense.

This Carr’s Billington feed is available as an A-MAIZE-ING GIMMER LAMB COARSE MIX or as a GIMMER LAMB NUT, this is a cost-effective and high-quality prime sheep feed mix specifically designed to achieve growth, frame, and bloom in gimmer lambs:

  • Soya offering a quality 16% protein for high level skeletal and muscle growth.
  • Maize that is high in energy and starch helping to promote a healthy bloom.
  • Minerals that promote optimum bone structure and growth.
  • Sugar beet pulp offering a balanced source of high energy and digestible fibre for a good frame (GIMMER LAMB NUT only).

Here’s how the price of lamb creep feed stacks up, with Carr’s Billington:

Feed cost per tonne £375
Feed cost per kilo £0.37
Feed rate (kg/day) 0.50
Feed cost per day £0.19
Feed cost per week £1.33
Total cost (8-week period) £10.64 per lamb

 

GIMMERS can also be fed at rate 0.75kg/lamb/day for a total of £15.75 for an 8-week period.

How to stay a step ahead of lamb growth and development:

  1. Keep on top of any feet problems that can cause stress, reduce trough visits and time feeding at trough, and affect overall performance.
  2. Look out for the signs of parasites (scouring and dirty back ends) that can impact feed conversion efficiency and treat as quickly as possible.
  3. Consider drenching with Superselco to boost vitamin and mineral levels to support the immune system against weaning stress.

View upcoming gimmer lamb shows and sales on the NEMSA website.

For specialist advice on preparing your gimmers lambs for sale, please call or WhatsApp:

Yorkshire & Derbyshire – Ryan Whyte on 07801 564024

Northern England – James Chapman on 07808 092556

TIME4SHOW & SALE: Show Cattle Preparation Guide

Show cattle preparation guide

Show cattle preparation guide

Cattle show judges look for correct conformation, body condition and mobility in the ring. Making sure cattle are properly prepared will help to enhance positive attributes and strengthen any weak areas, improving the chance of a prize on show day or a higher price at sale.

Read our pre-show guide to ensure your cattle will be looking their best on the day:

Feeding

Supplying a balanced diet is key to creating a champion. However, it’s important to remember that feeding should achieve muscle growth and enhance development but not impact health.

To reduce health issues, cattle should be fed depending on their breed, age and type i.e., whether they’re breeding bulls or suckler cows.

If cattle are being reared for the show ring from birth, they should be switched from milk and calf pellets onto a slower growing mix to prevent them becoming too fat too quickly. At eight to nine months of age cattle should be moved onto a pre-show ration.

If older cattle are being readied for showing, they will need to be fed a pre-show ration three to four months before the show date.

If you need more advice on how to ensure cattle are in the best condition for the showring, speak to your local Carr’s Billington’s on-farm specialist who will take the following into account:

  • Forage analysis and availability
  • Animal targets and farm focus
  • Input costs

Our team will be able to suggest the most suitable, ready prepared coarse mixes, such as the Supreme show mix, or explain more about custom mixes and blends.  

Top feeding tips:

  • Slower digested starch sources including rolled oats, barley and maize products and quality digestible fibre sources, such as sugar beet pulp, aid development and provide energy without digestive upsets
  • Adding linseed into the diet can improve coat shine
  • Biotin and zinc can also help enhance skin, hair and hoof quality
  • Consider using a live yeast, such as Actisaf®, to help stabilise the rumen pH, maximising feed utilisation and efficient digestion

Washing, clipping and feet checks

Washing and clipping are also important preparatory steps that should be taken before any show or sale.

One month ahead of show day

Show cattle should initially be washed at least four weeks before a show using shampoo and warm water to make clipping the coat easier. Once this has been done, clip away any remaining winter coat and begin training the top line hair to make it easier to manage nearer the show date.

Check feet condition at this point too. Foot problems may hinder the way the cow moves which will bring your score down while in the ring. Catching any problems early will ensure enough time to get them rectified.

A week before show day

Cattle should be washed, blow dried and clipped again up to a week before the show to allow enough time for the hair to grow out and highlight any areas that need last minute adjustments.

Blow-drying a cow after washing will dry them off and make the hair stand up for easier and more accurate clipping.

Clipping is used to improve the overall appearance of the cow, and the general idea is to make heifers look more ‘feminine’ and bulls more ‘masculine’.

Top clipping tips:

  • Clipping the shoulder tighter and leaving a longer top line will help heifers look more feminine
  • Start with the tail, then move to the chest, brisket and navel, sheath, top of the neck and onto the forarm/shoulder. After this move onto the belly/side wall before focussing on the back legs, hind quarters and upper hip. Finish with the top line and top of the tail followed by the head and neck
  • Lubricate the clipper blade around every 30 seconds to keep them sharper for longer and prevent them overheating

On show day

Make sure you leave plenty of time for final cleaning and clipping on the day of the show and don’t forget to take the following final steps just before heading into the ring:

  • Increase the tail volume by backcombing the hair and set it with hairspray
  • Use black and/or white spray to touch up any blemishes
  • Run a soft bristle brush over the coat for a last time to remove any flecks of straw or dust
  • Spray the coat with a final mist spray to increase shine

Below is a handy checklist of show cattle supplies to help you get show ready:

  • Shampoo
  • Clippers
  • Blade lubricant
  • Blow dryer
  • Brushes and combs
  • White coat
  • Feeders and waters
  • Halters, lead ropes and sticks
  • Feed and supplements
  • Hair products including hair, white, black and final mist sprays
  • Suitable livestock handling footwear

If you are short of any show supplies, make sure you drop by one of your local Carr’s Billington stores, where we have all of the essentials in stock.

Time 2 Strike: Preventing Blowfly Strike In Sheep This Summer

preventing-fly-strike

How to prevent fly strike in sheep

Fly strike in sheep is predicted to cost the farming industry £2.2m a year1, with almost all farmers suffering some financial loss from the condition2. As we head into prime fly strike season, we outline what you can be doing to prevent the condition in your flock this summer.

What is fly strike?

Blowfly strike is a serious and costly disease of sheep that affects more than 80% of farms in the UK each summer. 

It’s caused primarily by the green bottle fly, Lucilia sericata, which lays its eggs in decomposing matter such as dirty backends, footrot lesions and open wounds. The physical damage is then caused by the larvae (maggots). Other flies can also cause strike, including blue bottles and black bottles. 

Once fly populations take hold, they can be hard to manage due to the speed of the blowfly lifecycle, which can be completed in as little as two weeks (figure 1, NADIS). 

On-farm losses from Blowfly strike are incurred from:

  • Poor welfare
  • Loss in productivity (weight loss and decreased milk yield)
  • Fleece damage
  • Death
  • Treatment costs; including product, labour and time
blowfly lifecycle

Figure 1: Blowfly lifecycle (Source, NADIS)

Common signs of Blowfly strike in sheep

Blowfly strike can occur rapidly, often taking sheep farmers by surprise. If an infestation is missed, it can cause intense suffering and even death and is a major welfare and economic concern. 

The main signs of a blowfly infestation include:

  • Isolation from the flock
  • Discoloured wool
  • Agitation and kicking or nibbling at the affected area
  • Disturbed grazing
  • Tissue decay
  • Toxaemia
  • Death

The severity of a Blowfly strike infestation can vary, starting with lesions on a small area of skin with just a few maggots, spreading to extensive areas of skin. However, a small infestation can rapidly increase due to the short lifecycle of the Blowfly. 

The most common areas affected are the backends of sheep. However, the withers, head, back and shoulders can also be affected. 

It is a legal requirement for all sheep keepers to check their stock daily when sheep are at risk of strike (NADIS). This is due to the rapid nature in which symptoms can develop. 

Treatment options for fly strike

Sheep affected by Blowfly strike will need immediate attention by removing the maggots, cleaning the wound and, depending on the severity, using non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. It’s essential to involve your vet in the treatment. 

Plunge dipping using organophosphates can also be conducted, although the correct administration and disposal of the product are necessary. 

How to prevent Blowfly strike  

Prevention of Blowfly strike should be included in every farm health plan.  

Most fly-related diseases can be prevented by good hygiene and early use of fly control products. Each product has different active ingredients, control periods and withdrawal times. It’s important producers discuss insect control options with their vet or qualified on-farm adviser to find the product most suited to their flock.

The Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) has produced a list of available preventative treatments. This can be downloaded here.

There are additional management practices producers can implement to help prevent Blowfly strike. These include (NADIS): 

  • Shearing ewes before the onset of the high-risk period
  • Control of parasitic gastroenteritis caused by roundworms in lambs to reduce diarrhoea and, therefore, faecal contamination of the fleece
  • Dagging or crutching of fleece around the tail area to reduce fleece soiling
  • Dipping or use of pour-on chemical formulations to prevent strike or inhibit larval growth
  • Correct disposal of carcases to minimise suitable areas for flies to lay eggs
  • Ensure all wounds and footrot lesions are treated promptly
  • Trapping flies to help reduce overall fly populations – this must be used in conjunction with other control methods. 
  • Using the NADIS blowfly alert to identify the periods of highest risk and take preventative action
  • Examining the flock regularly during at-risk periods – twice a day checks are recommended to identify signs of strike or when there is an increased presence of flies

How can your local Carr’s Billington help? 

At Carr’s Billington, we have dedicated in-store Responsible Animal Medicines Advisers (RAMAs) knowledgeable in fly prevention and treatment. Come and speak to a member of the team today and find out how we can help prevent this costly disease in your flock this summer.  

We stock a wide range of products for the prevention and treatment of blowfly strike, including:

  • CLiK
  • CLiK Extra
  • CLiKZiN
  • Crovect
  • Ectofly
  • Deltafort
  • Dysect
  • Spot-On