Business Farming

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Condition score for a healthier flock in the future

John Fagan

Published 08/08/2012 | 06:00

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At this time of the year the main focus is on getting ready for lambing 2013. Going through the ewe lambs, we picked off about 200 or so that look like they will be fit to go to the ram in November.

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It is a long way off yet and this number will probably fizzle down to roughly 170 by then. They are mostly Texel- and Suffolk-cross lambs from my mule ewes that appear the strongest and cleanest.

I also brought in all the rams and, after giving them a thorough checking over, decided to cull two that I believe will not be fit for breeding this year.

Both had testicular problems which would have gone unnoticed had we not turned them up.

The ewes are now well dried off and we will begin the process of condition scoring them and culling the ones with mastitis, foot problems or notches on their ears.

The latter is the system that I use during the lambing season to mark out the ewes that had difficulty lambing.

These jobs are vital to ensure a good healthy flock for next year and now is the time to do it -- not the week before deciding to let out the ram.

A ewe and ram in good condition are more likely to ensure that you have a high lambing rate, and dealing with poor condition score or lameness in your flock is a lot more productive done now than in late September.

Given the wet weather I was worried about the potential threat of fluke, especially when I found a dead ewe that had all the symptoms of chronic fluke poisoning.

I got my vet to do a post-mortem which revealed that it was actually a severe case of pneumonia. I don't normally get post-mortems done but it was helpful in this case to discover that it was not fluke that had caused the death.

I will, however, dose my ewes for fluke and worms as soon as I have separated the culls.

In the meantime, the rest of the lambs, like all of us, could do with a bit of dry weather. None of the lambs are fit since we weaned early in July.

Last year I finished 1,300 lambs from grass. It is hard to envisage the same thing happening this year.

Once you make the decision to introduce meal to finish off the lambs it is hard to turn back and your costs can very easily spiral out of control.

Instead I am concentrating on keeping good grass in front of them combined with patience.

To do this I am topping any fields that have become too stemmy and I closed off about 30ac to turn into haylage if I get a dry spell of weather.

Having been lucky enough to get my silage cut two weeks ago, the after-grass is coming on well. I have put my ram lambs on this and hope to take a draw off them by mid-August.

I can see meal being introduced to finish lambs off later in the year, but I am holding off for as long as possible.

Unrealistic

In relation to lamb price, Ramadan is having its desired affect and demand is strong so prices are holding steady around the €5/kilo mark but I believe that there is more to be got and €5.20 is not unrealistic ,despite what the factory men might say.

With the persistently wet weather, I spent a bit of time bringing my flock register up to date. It is just one of those things that has to be done, and you have great peace of mind when it is done.

One thing that frustrates me though is the amount of duplication that takes place.

For example, in the Department flock register there is nowhere available to keep information about animal remedies.

You have to put this in your Bord Bia book, on which I am inspected every 18 months. But if the Bord Bia book is acceptable to the Department and flock register is acceptable to Bord Bia, why do I have to be inspected twice by both parties?

And what justifies the extra cost of employing Bord Bia staff and Department of Agriculture staff to inspect the same thing for the same reasons?

Another issue that I am quite particular about is farm safety. I have 12 nieces and nephews who tend to come and visit 'cool uncle John' quite a bit during the summer.

The farm for them is like a playground. I recently built a new sheep dip but the most important thing about the construction are the covers that I got specially made to make sure nobody can fall in.

In addition, with a lot of traffic coming and going through the yard, all access from the garden to the yard has been child-proofed.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Crookedwood, Co Westmeath Email: gartlandstown@gmail.com

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