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Monday 5 December 2016

Sheep: Flock is in fine shape ahead of lambing

John Fagan

Published 20/01/2016 | 02:30

Seamus Quinn and Tom McCrory at the Donegal IFA Sheep Meeting and county executive last week. Photo: Clive Wasson
Seamus Quinn and Tom McCrory at the Donegal IFA Sheep Meeting and county executive last week. Photo: Clive Wasson

As the flood waters begin to recede there is thankfully a noticeable stretch in the evening.

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Luckily the farm was not too badly affected by the heavy rain although my neighbours had a few anxious moments as water came close to flooding their homes.

We managed to keep the water out and in fairness to the local county council when we asked for help we got it. It's obvious now that climate change is not something we can ignore.

The focus on the farm is to get ready for lambing 2016. The flock has scanned really well at 1.9 and now the challenge is to keep losses to a minimum.

I separated out the triplets, doubles and singles. The barren ewes will be culled and I will get information back from the factory regarding their fluke status.

The ewes are all in really good condition having been housed since early December. If they don't need a fluke dose, there is no point in giving it to them.

I will vaccinate all the ewes with Covexin 10, and the ewe lambs, that are not due till April, will get two shots, two weeks apart.

With the ewes now separated out into their respective groups I will go about organising their nutritional needs in the run up to lambing. This is really important to get right.

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Overfeeding pregnant ewes can be just as harmful as underfeeding them and you need to keep an eye on their condition.

My silage quality is really good this year so (77 DMD, 13pc protein, 0.8 UFL) there is little need to get too excited about pumping them with ration too soon. I have ordered a 17pc protein ration which is soya based and I intend to gradually introduce this to the doubles three weeks out from lambing building it up to approximately 0.5 kilos per head per day.

The triplet carrying ewes will get more and I'll build them up to 0.8-1 kilo per head per day. The singles are on silage only, I'll possibly introduce meal at a low rate to them (0.25 kilos per head) a week out from lambing.

I find that having a high soya based ration is a good feed ingredient if the ewes are to lamb down with lots of milk.

In the meantime I am shopping around for some good deals on fertiliser. As soon as the weather permits I hope to get out 1 bag of urea per acre around the farm.

Normally I spread fertiliser myself but there are deals available to get it bulk spread.

I am also keeping in mind that I need grass cover to be able to let out some dairy heifers that are here being contract reared early in the spring. The younger ones would do well to get out early, but again this is weather dependent. There's no pressure just yet.

I did my sheep census online this year, I am becoming less of a technophobe these days and I also ordered a new sheep register and dispatch document book.

I am a long way off selling any lambs but it can take up to three weeks for the department to issue a new dispatch book. It is not something that I would like to be looking for in a hurry.

I completed my boom sprayer course last week. I was not too happy about having to do it and I suppose I could have been accused of being a bit cynical about it.

Having done it now I'm glad. It is scary to think that we could handle such dangerous chemicals with little or no training. It was an eye opener and I really think that it is a worthwhile course to do.

The course that I did was organised by the FRS and cost €200 - it's done now, and it did me no harm.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

Next up...

Over the next month I will be getting the sheds ready for lambing continually foot bathing and bedding down the ewes. As the ewes get heavier in lamb I have to stop foot-bathing them as they can pick up hurts which can cause abortions.

As mentioned, I will decide on whether or not I need to fluke dose the flock when I get results back from the factory on the barren ewes.

Meanwhile I’ll be closely watching the weather to get the opportunity to spread fertiliser and slurry to encourage spring time grass growth.

 I decided to take on a student this year from Gurteen Agricultural College. Darren Currid from Sligo, is starting with me on February 1.

Students can be great to have around and I enjoy sharing the experience of sheep farming with them.

You have to remember that they are on placement to learn so sharing experience without being too much of a slave driver is important. With 1,900 lambs due to be born I’ve no doubt that there will be lots to see and learn for Darren in spring 2016.

Indo Farming