Improving grass usage is my top resolution for 2016
Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30
A very Happy New Year to all. As we all know, for farmers the work never really ends but it's nice to enjoy a bit of downtime over the Christmas period with family and friends.
After some relaxation it's back to reality.
The flooding throughout the country is making life difficult for all.
I use Lough Mask to measure how much rainfall we're getting and I haven't seen it as high for many years.
The New Year brings with it resolutions.
I don't always set resolutions but I do try to do things better than the year before.
This year on my list is trying to improve the way I feed ewes and lambs, management around lambing and grassland utilisation.
Looking at what went well or went poorly last year gives me an opportunity to improve.
I think improving the usage of grass on the farm is important and I plan to reseed and improve some ground.
I have dosed the ewes for fluke and ewes that seemed to be lacking a bit were also dosed with trace element and vitamin drench.
Overall the ewes are in good condition. The ewes in fields where grass supplies are tight are now also receiving feed buckets and hay and silage supplementation.
I noticed that one of the bales of silage started to heat after a week in the feeder.
I was worried that this heating could help increase mould and bacteria growth on the bale which could then perhaps lead to ewes with diseases such as Listeriosis.
The next bales I put in the feeders were treated with an organic acid based product with some extra energy to prevent the heating.
This was sprayed on the bales and hopefully it will do the trick.
I housed the Pedigree Blue faced Leicester ewes in early December due to the terrible wet and stormy conditions.
I had intended to keep these out until the end of January but the weather meant I had to change plans.
They are currently on a basic hogget ration with some extra oats and hay for maintenance.
They are in good body condition at the moment. From next week I will begin to introduce a ration specifically for pre lambing.
The last year was a brilliant one for sheep.
Trade for factory lamb, hoggets and factory ewes was strong and the breeding sales followed this with strong demand for rams and breeding ewes.
Breeding sheep were a lively trade.
Perhaps this was brought about by the confidence in the sheep sector from strong prices for cull ewes and factory lamb.
We scanned the ewes for pregnancy last week. The weather didn't help matters but we got the job done all the same.
The Blue faced Leicester ewes and the Lanark type Blackface ewes were scanned.
Overall I am quite happy with the scan.
The Blue faced Leicester ewes scanned just over 2.1 lambs/ewe.
The Blackface ewes scanned over 1.5 lambs/ewe.
I have a high percentage of hoggets in the flock this year, they scanned lower than the more mature ewes in the flock and this has reduced the scanning percentage.
Scanning the ewes is all well and good but it's what is done with the results and how the ewes are managed after that that makes the difference.
I have divided the ewes with singles and couples and triplets and also subdivided these into the earlier and later lambing ewes.
The ewes will be fed accordingly with increased feeding starting around six weeks prior to lambing.
I am undecided what I will feed yet but this is on my to do list.
I'll see what's available and go with the best value product. Not the cheapest but the feed that is best for the ewes at a competitive price.
Tom Staunton is a sheep farmer from Tourmakeady, Co Mayo