Pneumonia is the latest test in this endless year of difficulties
Published 03/10/2012 | 06:00
Farming in general really throws the punches at you. One minute you are up, the next minute you can be down.
It's the nature of the business I suppose. I managed to eventually get my lambs back on the kill sheet, having spent about €6/hd on meal.
This is a lot, I would argue, in a normal year. However, as we all know, 2012 is not a normal year.
The day after going to the factory I went out to the field only to be welcomed by a dead heifer. It had been a rough night's weather, but then the phone rang from the factory to say that a spot of pneumonia had been detected in my some of my lambs.
Combined with a sudden crunching noise coming from the wheel of my tractor, the relief of selling a few lambs was quickly being obliterated.
I had to react to the pneumonia outbreak by vaccinating my remaining ram lambs with Heptavac P.
The ewe lambs, however, seemed to be quite content in themselves and I decided not to vaccinate them.
But as a precaution I also vaccinated my breeding rams for pneumonia.
I attended our sheep discussion group meeting in early September which I found really helpful.
It is always great to know that you are not the only one having problems.
With the year dragging on many of us in the group were finding it difficult to finish lambs so we discussed the merits of finishing them inside.
It was an honest and open discussion and we estimated that to finish a 37kg lamb to roughly 46kgs on meal over a 35-day period (1.8kgs/week liveweight gain) it would cost in the region of €25/hd.
A scary, costly and sobering prospect. I had thought about putting the ram lambs in to finish them this way, but after the discussion group meeting and the threat of pneumonia I decided to leave them out and they are getting meal ad lib and seem quite content.
I went through the remaining ewe lambs and I found that they were doing quite well. I have started to introduce meal to them and I hope to have them all finished by Christmas.
However, it will cost me a lot more per head to finish them and it is disappointing that this investment is not being rewarded by the factories.
I normally let the rams out around September 19 but due to the weather and the condition of the ewes I have decided to postpone lambing by two weeks across the whole flock.
I lamb in batches, putting the ewes that are in the best condition out first and giving the ewes that are thinner more time. I have also decided not to lamb as many ewe lambs this year.
I bought mule ewe lambs in Ballinrobe and I think that this year I will just store them with a view to having a stronger hogget to introduce to the flock next year.
My home-bred ewe lambs which are Texel and Suffolk-cross have done very well and I believe that they will be well capable of rearing a lamb next April.
I am looking forward now to closing off some fields for lambing next spring. I will get whatever slurry I have left in the tanks out and hopefully build up a bank of grass.
The rain over the summer has really washed the nutrients from grass. This is something that I will have to investigate more next spring.
Quite a lot of my farm has been in tillage and is freshly reseeded, however the crops of previous years seem to have sapped the life from the soil.
I will soil test again next January to try and figure out exactly what the soils need.
John Fagan farms at Garlandstown, Crookedwood, Co Westmeath