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Thursday 19 October 2017

Dosing begins as hill season finishes

Timmy Fleming

Grass growth has kept up with demand and we are still using the leader/follower system where the ewes are following the lambs to fully graze out fields.

We are still not feeding meals as we have sufficient grass for the stock numbers on hand. We also have a good grass wedge to bring us into the winter when grass growth tails off.

Drafting this year has been pretty good as we have only 180 lambs (from the lowland flock) left out of the 450-odd that we started off with this year. We will be keeping 40 of these 180 as flock replacements.

Of the 270 lambs sold to date, around 170 have been marketed through the Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb Group at €5/kg carcass. The remainder have been sold live in Milltown Mart and have averaged around €2/kg liveweight. We still have some ewe lambs that we might sell live in the coming weeks as there appears to be a bit of extra demand for ewe lambs this year.

All the remaining lambs on the lowland farm have been shorn at this stage. We haven't sold the wool yet, but are hoping that it will cover the cost of shearing. I am currently bringing the ewes and lambs down off the hill. There should be around 300 ewes with around 220 lambs. We should have them all down by the time you read this article.

Our aim is to dose the adult ewes for fluke (Flukiver). Any hogget ewes will also be dosed with a wormer (Genesis). The lambs will be treated with Duotech (fluke and worm dose). However, due to the fact that white wormers don't work on many sheep farms, we will be testing dung samples from the lambs 10 days after dosing to make sure that they have been cleaned out fully. Weather permitting, we will also shear the lambs that come off the hill in the coming weeks.

We intend to hold onto the older ewes off the hill this year and breed them with the Belclare rams. They won't, however, be going back up to the hill again, instead they will be kept on the lowland for another year or two. We have also replenished our ram flock. This year, I bought two Texel hoggets, a Texel ram lamb and two Belclare ram lambs in addition to one Scottish Blackface ram. I will probably have to buy another three Scottish Blackface rams as I have sold my own ones.

Our February lambing ewes have been sponged at this stage and the rams were turned out with these on September 20. This should have us lambing around the middle of February.

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The December lambing flock has been scanned at this stage. The litter size is pretty good at around 1.7 but we only had a strike rate of 70pc. Hopefully, the February lambing flock will do a bit better.

We have some rented conacre which we soil sampled last winter. The pH is very low at 4.7ish so it really needs lime. Because we have it only on a year-to-year basis, it is difficult to justify the cost of spreading ground limestone.

This spring I spread some granulated lime and I have been very impressed with the results -- so much so that I am now considering having a conversation with the owner to see if I can get a commitment for a few years, in which case I will spread ground lime.

Timmy Fleming is a sheep farmer who farms at Coolies, Muckross, Killarney, Co Kerry. He is also the Chairman of the Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb Marketing Group

Irish Independent