Teagasc researchers have calculated that shearing ewes at housing is equivalent to a saving in creep concentrate feed of approximately €8 per ewe.
With the low wool price currently only covering about 20% of the cost of shearing, Teagasc researcher Tim Keady said sheep farmers must shear at the most opportune time for their particular system of production, in their bid to recoup the cost of shearing.
Three studies were undertaken at Teagasc, Athenry, Co Galway, to evaluate the effects of shearing March-lambing ewes at housing in December.
Ewes were housed either unshorn, or shorn and offered ad-lib grass silage.
It was found that lambs born from ewes shorn at housing were 0.6 kg heavier at birth, and 1.9 kg heavier at weaning (at 14 weeks).
Shearing at housing did not affect the incidence of lambing difficulty or mortality.
The increased birth weight of the lambs was due to increased silage intake, in turn primarily due to reduced heat stress in late pregnancy, and an extended gestation period.
The increase in lamb weight at weaning is the same response as would be expected from providing 19kg of creep concentrate to each lamb prior to weaning, at a cost of approximately €5/lamb.
Shearing at housing costs €2.50/ewe.
Ewes in the trial were rearing 1.7 lambs on average.
Other advantages of shearing at housing include more ewes housed in a given area, with the floor area required by shorn ewes up to 20% less.
Ewes shorn at housing are easier to monitor during late pregnancy and post lambing.
Housing occurs during a period of low labour demand, so shearing then spreads the annual workload more evenly.
Shearing at housing omits the task of separating ewes from lambs when shearing in May or June.
Shearing ewes at housing also reduces lamb age at slaughter by about two weeks, and increases the fleece weight by 0.3kg.