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Stackyard News Mar 07

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Major Flock Labour-Saving Opportunities Identified

Simplified, easier to manage systems and better planning could offer sheep producers across the country major opportunities for boosting returns by saving on both the wage bill and unpaid family labour, suggests the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).


beltex lambs
With paid and unpaid labour together representing over 25% of total annual lowland flock costs at an average of more than £27/ewe in the latest EBLEX enterprise costings, savings in this major flock management expense clearly hold considerable potential for improving profitability; providing, of course, they do not compromise performance.

As well as improving profitability by reducing overall labour costs per ewe, the time saved can be reinvested into the business to improve the scale or efficiency of either the sheep or other enterprises on the farm to maximise the benefit.

EBLEX stresses that the key to minimising labour requirements without adversely affecting performance is to remove complications and unpredictability through simple, well-planned and easily-managed systems. A handy checklist for labour-saving flock management, set out in its Lamb Action for Profit factsheet – Better Returns by Labour-Cost Savings, identifies
10 primary areas offering opportunities for savings as well as other efficiency benefits.

EBLEX Labour-Saving Flock Management Checklist


Labour-Saving Opportunity


Selecting ewes and rams for ease of lambing and rearing ability cuts the amount of supervision and intervention required at lambing.


Effective quarantining and treatment of new or returning sheep reduces the risk of labour-intensive disease outbreaks.


A good health plan allows health treatments to be scheduled and integrated well in advance, reducing the number of times sheep need to be handled.


A firm culling and replacement policy reduces the number of old ewes or those with particular problems that are invariably the most time-consuming.


Changing raddle colours regularly allows lambing labour requirements and rotas to be planned ahead and attention to be focussed on the right ewes at the right time.


Scanning helps lambing organisation and improves feeding and fostering efficiency, as well as allowing scarce time to be concentrated on the most needy individuals.

Feed Planning

Good feed planning minimises day-to-day management difficulties and ensures the greatest number of strong lambs requiring the least individual care and attention.


Feeding nuts or cobs on the ground rather than in troughs can save a lot of time in large flocks and overcome problems of restricted ewe feed access in many cases.


Keeping ewes and lambs in tight age groups after lambing reduces the time spent selecting lambs for sale as well as improving the accuracy of health treatments.


A good handing system dramatically cuts the time and effort required in handling stock, helping to ensure tasks are carried out effectively at the right time.

Copies of Better Returns by Labour Cost Saving and other Sheep Better Returns Programme advice are available free of charge to English levy payers from EBLEX on
0870 2418829 or by e-mailing More detailed Lamb Action for Profit guidance can be obtained through the interactive website resource at

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