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Monday 23 October 2017

Sheep... Final preparations for lambing

Tasty treat: Sheep strip-grazing beet last week near Caim, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Photo: Roger Jones.
Tasty treat: Sheep strip-grazing beet last week near Caim, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Photo: Roger Jones.
John Large

John Large

We scanned the repeat ewes and the ewe-lambs at the end of January. Now that we have all the figures our scan results are as follows - 1.78 lambs per ewe to the ram. We had 32 empty ewes, most of these were sold last week.

We kept five younger ewes that were a bit light and we'll try to get them in-lamb next year. They are with the ewe-lambs that are in-lamb. We are feeding all the ewes that will lamb from March 8 onwards. We are using a coarse ration made up of rolled barley, whole barley, pulp nuts, soya-bean meal and 25kg minerals.

All these products are in the top group for energy, with their UFL over 1.00. We are feeding the triplets and twins twice per day, giving the triplets 0.9kg and the twins 0.75kg of meal. The singles are getting 0.4kg in one feed. Our ration is a 19pc crude protein, this should be high enough for the ewes to produce plenty of colostrum for their new born lambs. This feed is the most important of a lamb's life.

The lambs need this feed in the first three hours of life. Usually the lamb will find the teat and suck by itself but sometimes we may have to either help the lamb feed from the ewe or by milking the ewe and feeding the lamb with a stomach tube. This job can be both time consuming and testing of one's patience, but is the most important job at lambing time.

Any ewes that present with over-sized teats or udders that are near the ground should be marked and culled after weaning. Any other ewes that have problems, such as prolapse or with milk in only one side of the udder, are also marked for culling.

Make sure when marking these ewes that you put a permanent mark on them, we take a notch out of her ear tag, this way they can be easily identified as they are put through the crush. These problem ewes take up most of your time, therefore the most important thing is to make sure they are not there again next year.

With about 100 triplets to lamb every effort will be made to wet foster as many as we can onto single ewes as they lamb. No ewe will be let out to grass with three lambs. Any orphan lambs not fostered will be reared artificially or sold if possible.

During lambing the field technician from ICBF will be tagging, weighing and recording all lambs as soon as they are dry after lambing.

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They are also going to record lamb vigour, which will include how quickly the lamb gets up and tries to suck its mother. They will also record ewe milk-ability and her mother-ability. This information should be a big help when recording rams with good maternal traits that can be passed onto his offspring.

Our ewe lambs were scanned in late January. We let 80 to the ram, they were sponged in two lots one week apart. Our results are not good, with 41 in-lamb, or just 50pc.

We have 13 with twins and 38 singles. These are getting 0.3kg of meal and access to feed blocks and good silage. They are outside and will only be housed when they start to lamb in the last week of March.

Our low conception rate could be put down to the fact that the rams were only left with these ewe-lambs for one week. Maybe, we should have left them for three weeks and we would have got a few more of them in-lamb.

The repeat ewes are inside getting good bales of silage and 0.3kg of meal. These ewes have to be let out to a yard where they get their meal. Once we have enough room in the shed where the first ewes will be lambing we will transfer them there immediately.

This week we must stock up on all our equipment for lambing. We also have to get Hi Mag mineral buckets for the ewes after they lamb to prevent grass tetany. We will feed all lambed ewes a 18pc CP nut for the first three weeks after lambing.

We have no fertiliser spread yet as soil temperatures are too low. So by feeding the ewes we will be able to reduce the amount of grass we require for the first few weeks.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary.

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