Leicester rams are having a rest
Published 05/12/2012 | 06:00
The Bluefaced Leicester rams, young and old, have all been taken away from the ewes at this stage. They can now relax and enjoy a well-deserved rest until they are required again next year.
For the time being, they have been replaced by Scotch Blackface rams.
They have been running with the Blackface ewes for the past 10 days and these will be taken out again in a week's time.
The rams will be housed over the winter period and will receive silage ad-lib and 0.5kg of concentrates. The rams were put into the shed once they were dry enough.
With such a wet end to the year, I was worried that I may have a problem with fluke. The weather this year was perfect for the parasite to thrive and develop.
To combat this, I had previously dosed all the ewes with Flukeiver, which is a clostanel-based product.
These ewes will be dosed in the coming weeks, in the lead-in to the festive season. All rams were dosed for their second time for both fluke and worms on arrival into the sheep shed.
Kepak Athleague has reported an increased level of fluke in the livers of slaughtered animals to the South Mayo Producer Group in recent weeks. The factory highlighted in particular the presence of immature fluke.
To my relief, the batch of 31 lambs I sold last week had no such signs of fluke.
These lambs did not kill out as well as previous batches, with a carcass weight of 19kg and grading mainly R3, with some R4 lambs.
However, this was to be expected. After all these lambs were still on the farm at the end of the year for a reason.
Many of these lambs were either triplets, or lambs that had some setback earlier in the year, resulting in slower growth.
Last Saturday, I had John Scarry in to pregnancy scan the Bluefaced Leicester ewes. I was anxious to get these ewes scanned to see how successful the AI of these ewes was.
John mentioned that, of the sheep he had scanned to date, many had a lower scanning rate than he would have expected on those farms.
It's unclear why this is so, but it is possible that the harsh weather this year, coupled with the lack of grass available for flushing, may have played some part in it.
The early scanning may not be a true reflection of how overall scanning results will go, but the current indications are that scanning results may be back by up to 0.3 lambs per ewe this year.
My own Bluefaced Leicester ewes gave a scanning result of 2.15 lambs/ewe for 20 ewes. Within this there were eight sets of triplets, seven sets of twins and five ewes carrying single lambs.
The other five pedigree ewes that repeated to first service were not scanned, as it is too early to detect pregnancy.
They will be scanned with the main Blackface and Mule flock between Christmas and the New Year, when there is more help around.
I was happy with the scanning results. I will have ewes lambing to all of the rams I used through AI and I am now looking forward to a busy February.
The silage results for my baled silage have also arrived back from the lab. As expected, the quality of the silage is back on last year.
The DMD of this year's silage is 64.3pc, with a crude protein content of 9.3pc.
This is back by about 4.5pc DMD and 1.5pc for crude protein on the 2011 silage.
Ammonia levels, which give an indication of the preservation of the silage, are 9.5pc.
This is very similar to the levels found on many other farms around the country.
With these results, I can now budget how much concentrate feed will be needed during the winter period and how much will be needed in the lead up to lambing.
I will need to feed an increased level of concentrates to keep the same level of performance of the ewes as last year.
With current meal prices of €330-€360/t, this winter will be a costly time if the same levels of production as 2011 are to be maintained.
As this is my last article for 2012, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Let's hope 2013 is a more successful year and enjoyable year than 2012.
Tom Staunton is a sheep farmer from Tourmakeady, Co Mayo