70pc have inadequate handling facilities
I had a call recently from a farmer who purchased around 130 store lambs about four weeks previously. A significant proportion was now lame, most likely from scald.
What was he to do? A very basic query, but the real problem was that this farmer did not have any real sheep handling facilities. There were now two alternatives -- to turn up the lambs and apply blue spray or to buy at least one footbath, try to rig it up in the cattle crush and walk all lambs through a treatment solution.
Here was a man who purchased lambs just because there was grass available. No real planning went into the project.
As a result of this call, I contacted a number of people in the industry to determine the proportion of sheep farmers that have adequate handling facilities.
The answers varied from 25-30pc. In other words, only 7,500-9,000 sheep farmers out of a total of around 30,000 in Ireland have decent facilities.
In my view, lameness cannot be controlled without footbathing. I do not know how farmers can weigh and draft lambs, select animals for breeding, dose, vaccinate and apply pour-on or any other routine treatment without a proper race and pens. Granted, some of these can be carried out in a cattle crush but more often than not this involves pallets and baler twine. Handling in such make-do pens is not only hard and difficult, it is often downright unpleasant and results in important tasks being delayed or not getting done at all.
A cattle crush is required before a farmer can secure a herd number. Should the same principle apply to handling facilities and acquiring a flock number? I would even question how farms can be quality assured if they do not have basic handling facilities.