How quickly a year goes by. Last week all the ewes were bred using AI. Again, it was a two day job, with five days between each lot. Sponges were removed two days before AI and the ewes injected with PMSG.
All of them were housed the next morning and left to fast with no food or water for 24 hours before AI. This is very important because the ewes' bladders need to be empty so the vet has a better view of where to place the semen.
The rams arrived from Lyons Estate in the morning. On arrival they are put into individual pens so they do not harm each other. If left in a group they would start to fight and head-butt each other.
Then we let a couple of ewes wander up and down by the rams just to get them interested. Each ram is then let out to a ewe and, when he mounts the ewe, semen is collected.
The semen is then checked under a microscope. All the rams on day one jumped quickly and provided enough semen each for 40 ewes. The second day the rams were slower but with a bit of patience and encouragement they all worked.
All the rams' identification details are pre-recorded into my hand-held device. Each lot of ewes have their ID numbers recorded and correlated to the rams being used when they are being placed in the crates for AI.
This way the parentage of the lambs should be easily found. It is also very important that the ewe has both tags, so any ewes with one tag had this replaced with two new ones the day we were putting in the sponges. We changed any damaged tags also.
After going to all the work and expense of putting 600 ewes in-lamb to specific rams, it would be very foolish to loose information by not having the ewes properly tagged.
We will let out rams to service repeat ewes on October 27 for 34 days or two cycles. This way we will have one week off between the AI ewes and any replacements at lambing time.
Last year we also put most of our ewe lambs to the ram as the repeat ewes. This year we do not intend lambing any ewe lambs.
The reason for this is that after a slow grass-growing year, the ewe lambs are not heavy enough and grass is not as plentiful as this time last year.
We did not get to sow any catch crops after spring barley with the harvest being late and ground conditions so wet. So this year we think it best to leave them empty.
We sold lambs last week. These were getting meal and killed out well at 20.7kg, but they are still slow to get into condition for sale.
Proof of this is the fact that I am finding it hard to fill the trailer after each two week draft. We will struggle on and try to keep them up to spec as they are being picked for slaughter.
Last week, we had a visit from a butcher who is selling some of our lambs. What he needed was a few photos of me with my lambs and some information on the farm which he was going to use as a help to tell his customers that the meat he was selling was sourced from a local farm and being properly produced.
One very important piece of information he told me was that he must have a constant product every week.
No point in getting a new customer this week and not having what they want next week. So that means for me supply the same weight lamb every week with the proper fat cover.
It is also good to see a live export trade developing that should keep a floor under prices. I just hope there are not too many Department and veterinary regulations put in the way of this trade.
As long as the live exports can work with the same regulations as the factories, they have a chance.
John Large farms at Gortnahoe,Thurles, Co Tipperary. email: firstname.lastname@example.org