Now time to prepare as lambing gets close
All ewes due to lamb first have got their injection of covexin 10. This is to cover all clostridial diseases and to give antibodies to the lambs from the ewes' beastings. At the same time the ewes received a mineral vitamin dose called "Twin Plus".
They got 20ml per ewe at a cost of 70c each. The ewes are now being fed as follows: triplets and two pens of older ewes get 0.8kg fed twice daily; ewes carrying twins get 0.5kg once daily; and the singles get 0.2kg once a day. The mix is now 1t of rolled barley, 1t of whole barley, 1t of citrus pulp and 1t of soya. We only introduced the soya bean meal last week. This works out at 17.5pc crude protein. We will increase this to 19pc for the last two weeks before lambing which will be from the first of March.
Now it's time to get ready for lambing. The individual pens have to be put together. We use a 5ft by 4ft pen, made from two gates with half-inch box iron on the top half and mesh steel underneath. These are light to carry and can be all joined together using pins. Most importantly you can see what is happening in each pen. We put 60 in one shed beside where the ewes are lambing and another 40 where hay was stored. As this is part of one lambing shed, any problem ewes, ewes that have lambs mothered onto them and ewes with triplets use these pens. We also have enough gates to put extra pens in where the ewes are lambing when needed, usually at night.
Water is given by bucket from a barrel placed near the small pens. We just leave in the bucket and let the ewe drink all she needs then move onto the next pen. This may seem very laborious, but if you leave the bucket there it can be spilled over then you have a wet area where infection can start. Our aim is to keep small pens as dry and clean as possible by using plenty of straw with no cleaning out until finished lambing. We will disinfect the straw bed after each ewe.
Meal is fed twice daily, in split 20l drums. When meal is eaten the drums are removed, refilled for next feed and left in the meal store. Five or six of these can be carried together to each pen.
We must also stock up on our veterinary and lambing equipment. When lambs are born their navels are sprayed with 10pc strong iodine. Then they are moved into the single pens, where the ewe is checked for milk and left to mother up. If all goes well after 24 hours the lambs are tailed and sprayed with a number which corresponds with its mother. We use a different colour spray for singles and twins. The lambs are also tagged in both ears, with their weight and sex recorded. Their mothers tag is also recorded to verify parentage. Then after 12 hours they are either moved out to a field or into a group pen.
The ewe lambs were scanned recently. From 105 ewes let to ram we have 70 singles, 24 twins and 11 empty. This works out at 1.1 per ewe to the ram. The twins are on grass and 0.2kg of the ewe ration. The singles are on grass alone, allocated in daily blocks. We were trying to give them enough for two days but in the wet weather we were wasting half a day's grass. This is my first time to allocate grass on a daily basis and once you have the next day's electric wire prepared there is no problem to moving them. What surprised me is how contented they stay once they have the grass eaten. We have enough grass for the next 20 days. Our plan for lambing these is to leave them out by day and into the shed at night.
John Large is a sheep farmer at Gortnahoe, Thurles, Co Tipperary