It has been a busy few weeks with breeding sales and with the AI of the pedigree Bluefaced Leicesters and the shearing of ewe lambs.
The breeding sales are finished for the year. They concluded with the sale of Bluefaced Leicester rams and the Mayo Blackface sale.
All in all I am very pleased on how the breeding sales went for me this year. My mule ewe lambs were up €4/hd on last year. I sold 50 draft Mayo Mountain ewes that have been on the farm for years.
These ewes were not required for this breeding season as I had a surplus of replacements in the flock. I had the champion and reserve champion Bluefaced Leicester Rams at the premier sale in Ballinrobe.
My last outing for 2012 will be to go over to Bluefaced Leicester sale in Carlisle. I have never been in Britain for a ram sale and I hope it will be an event from which I can learn and improve my own stock.
The work is set to continue into the coming month as I must be alert and vigilant as my rams are being let run with the ewes. The Beltex ram has been running with the mule ewes for the past three weeks and at present 48pc of these ewes have been covered.
I used a yellow raddle on the ram at the beginning and this was changed to green two weeks after the ram was let out and will be changed again in another two weeks. It is a critical time of the year for any sheep farmer. The aim this time of year is get all of the flock's ewes in lamb and with a short lambing period and a high litter size. This year I decided to fertility test all my rams, including all the shearling rams I sold. This is important for all farmers because an infertile ram can be very damaging to the flock.
I wanted to fertility test the rams I had for sale as it gave the purchaser peace of mind that the ram was fit to do his job.
All the rams I sold were 5/5 for sperm motility and 5/5 for wave motion. I was delighted with the results as this showed that the semen concentration was dense and that the sperm was very active. I also had an aged ram that scored 3/5 for wave motion, I was disappointed with this but it may be due to a cold he had beforehand.
The ram has since been given selenium to improve reproductive performance. I will reduce the number of ewes I intended to let with this ram from 1:50 to 1:25. If I see that there is no repeats from these I will let some more ewes with him.
I think that fertility testing of rams is essential as it provides customers with some peace of mind and also increases the value of the ram. It should be one of the first things to be looked at in a ram because, even if he is the best looking ram in the world, he is no good unless he is fertile and can produce offspring. The cost of carrying out the tests is well recouped in the sale of the ram.
Last Saturday the artificial inseminating of the pedigree ewes was carried out by vet Ronan Gallagher. It is not a matter of the vet turning up and letting him get on with it. Some help is required getting ewes in and out of crates and aiding in the collection of fresh semen from rams. The sponges of the ewes that were to get frozen semen were taken out 12 hours earlier than the ewes getting fresh semen. The reason for this was that it takes longer for the fresh semen to be ready to fertilise an egg.
Ronan showed me through the scope the importance of fasting the ewes 24 hours before hand. He showed me where the bladder was through the scope and how this would affect the process if it was full.
We had no problem taking semen from any of the rams during the day which was a relief and all of them were in good working order. It is just a matter of time now to see how successful the process will be. Last week I sold a batch of 43 mule wether lambs; these killed out at 20.54kg. I have been feeding these for the past five weeks with concentrates and they have been on a good leafy pasture.
I generally let my mule wether lambs grow on grass and then feed them concentrates for the final five weeks to ensure they have enough cover for sale.
I had grouped the wether lambs according to size before this and the next batch will now get more attention and feeding before selling.
Tom Staunton farms at Shanvallyard, Tourmakeady, Co Mayo. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org