With breeding season now clearly on the horizon for many farmers, Agridirect.ie discusses the use of boluses to boost flock fertility.
Flock fertility: now is the time to invest!
While sheep farmers are enjoying high prices for finished lambs this year, past experience of buoyant finished lamb prices will prompt many to think that it won’t last forever and may not even last long. Of course, better prices are only what lamb producers deserve but now thoughts are swiftly turning towards breeding next year’s crop of lambs. No one can predict what next year’s prices will bring, but one way of driving profitability on any sheep farm is a high level of productivity, in particular a high number of lambs sold per ewe.
Increasing this aspect of performance (lambs sold per ewe), depends on finding long lasting improvements which are not just a quick fix and will provide assured beneficial results into the future. On some farms, however, providing assured daily trace element supplementation in the important run up to breeding is not part of the breeding plan. On most farms, the essentials for high conception rates are selenium, cobalt and iodine, plus optional copper depending on breed and management where there is a known deficiency. Although some supplements also contain zinc, this is largely unnecessary because sheep are very rarely deficient in this mineral.
By far the easiest and most reliable method of supplementation is a 180-day Allsure bolus, providing a consistent daily release of trace elements for a 6-month period. To reduce workload, these can be given at the same time as other tasks including worming, vaccinations, and foot checks. According to Animax vet Elizabeth Berry, pasture can be up to 50% deficient in these critical trace elements. “The best timing for supplementation is approximately six weeks before breeding begins,” she says. This 6-week period is to ensure that the essential trace elements have time to make their way into the ewe’s bloodstream. Ewes should then be in tip top shape at the time of ram turn out. The cost of bolusing with Allsures Ewe and Lamb boluses is approximately €1.60-1.80 per animal for a 6-month period.
What do the Farmers Think?
Farmer-to-farmer: “Fitter ewes, higher conception rates, a more compact lambing period, and consistent lamb birth-weights” are reported by David Cromie in County Down, Northern Ireland. Twice-yearly, his Millhaven Charollais and commercial crossbred ewes are bolused with Allsure Sheep & Lamb, well ahead of breeding and again pre-lambing. “In addition to increased production, we also value the peace of mind that trace element deficiencies are covered,” David says.
In the Republic of Ireland, fitter ewes, compact lambing, and lots of lively lambs at birth are reported by Cathal Joyce in Tuam, Co. Galway. He boluses his ewes with Allsure four to six weeks before ram turnout to cover the full pregnancy period. Cathal also boluses bought-in store lambs for maximum thrive on kale grown for finishing lambs.
For the Allsure Sheep and Lamb bolus, the Allsure Sheep Metal Balling Gun is used and allows for quick and easy administration whilst not harming or distressing the animal. The Allsure Sheep Metal Balling Gun is designed to be narrower and shorter than comparable sheep balling guns currently on the market, which also makes this gun particularly useful for bolusing lambs.
Why use boluses over drenches?
There are significant advantages to using boluses over drenches. Drenches must be administered every few weeks, whereas a single bolus like Allsure Sheep and Lamb lasts for up to six months. This alone saves farmers time, effort, and money. Drenches can also cause a sudden spike in mineral levels which, in some cases, can be damaging to the animal. Boluses use a slow-release system which ensures the animal only receives the correct daily amount of cobalt, selenium, and iodine over a long period of time. Drenches can also cause quite a mess if spilt or if they come into contact with clothing or skin. This is an inconvenience we don’t have to consider with boluses.
The benefits of the Allsure Sheep and Lamb bolus are:
- Stronger ovulation, higher embryo survival
- Higher lambing %, fewer barren ewes
- Minimal handling, ‘give and forget’ for 180 days
- Easy copper option if required (e.g. prevention of swayback in lambs)
- Easy to give, no risk (to you or ewe)