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Sunday 11 December 2016

Sheep: Stockholm tar on the lambs was enough to out-fox the predators

John Large

Published 06/04/2016 | 02:30

Lambing is over on the farm of John Large. Getty Images.
Lambing is over on the farm of John Large. Getty Images.

The main lambing is over for another year, and I can't say I'm sorry to see the end of it.

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Now I've half the repeat ewes lambed and mostly just the hoggets left.

It all kicked off on March 1 with all ewes in-lamb to AI lambed by March 14. I'd signed up to Sheep Ireland and this year data was collected under a series of headings.

Under lambing difficulty, it showed that 70pc of ewes lambed by themselves, there was slight difficulty with 20pc, which were mostly lambs presented at birth with just one leg and a head. In 10pc of cases there was severe difficulty generally caused by over-sized single lambs near the end of lambing or multiple births, with the lambs legs intertwined or two lambs heads coming together.

We had just one visit to the vet where the ewe was just not open enough to lamb and a Caesarean section was the only viable option.

The other traits were lamb vigour, lamb mortality, milkiness and mothering-ability of the ewe. I will address these in my next article.

Lamb birth weight was very satisfactory, especially the triplets with an average weight of 4.41kg, which shows how important it is to feed the triplet bearing ewes from the time you scan. The twin lambs were 4.47kg and singles 5.26kg.

The improvement in the weather from the end of the first week in March was our saving. Ground conditions were so wet that I was not able to transport the newborn lambs and their mothers to the fields using the jeep.

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For the first time that I can remember we had to pull the trailer with the tractor.

During the first week we were getting very tight for space with ewes and lambs everywhere.

Once the weather changed it was full speed ahead to get them out to the fields.

The ewes had enough grass for the first two weeks but now we are feeding three lots of twin ewes 0.5kg of 18pc protein nuts per day. The singles and other group of twins have plenty of grass. With the harsh days and plenty of frost most nights there is not much growth so we will have to stay feeding until grass cover improves.

We spread urea at three quarters of a bag per acre on most of the ground on March 18 and 27.2:5:5 on the out-farm at a rate of two bags per acre on the same day. We spread the rest of the home farm on March 29 again using Pasture Sward at two bags per acre. So when we finally do get an improvement in temperatures, grass growth should move along quickly.

We scanned the repeat ewes and ewe-lambs on February 10. Our overall scan results for ewes was 1.85 lambs per ewe to the ram with 27 ewes empty at 4pc.

We had just over 53pc with twins, 26pc with singles and the remaining 17pc with triplets. Out of the triplets we had a few sets of quads and to our surprise one ewe produced five live lambs.

Most of the extra lambs were mothered on to single ewes and only about 85 ewes went out with one lamb each. But I know that we did lose some lambs outside.

The fox arrived on the first night, but once we started putting Stockholm tar on the back of the lamb's neck and just over their tail no more were taken. We used the product in liquid form and it could be applied easily with a small paint-brush.

Our ewe-lambs scanned very good, maybe even too well. Out of 108 put to the ram, there were just two not in-lamb, 47 with singles, 48 with twins and 11 with triplets giving us a rate of 1.63 lambs per ewe to the ram.

After scanning the singles and late-repeat ewes were put on fodder beet-tops with access to round-bale silage.

They were happy enough there once the weather improved. After housing on March 14 they received 0.25kg of meal per day. We now have a few lambed and their lambs are plenty strong with most lambing by themselves. I hope this continues.

The twin ewe lambs after scanning were put onto a good field of Italian rye-grass, which was fed to them in three day sections. No meal was fed until housing but they are now getting 0.5kg per day.

After the first few lambed we noticed they were a bit short on milk, so we increased the protein here by giving them an extra 100g of soya per day.

The triplets were treated as a separate group, and were getting 0.75kg of meal outside with access to silage and plenty of exercise looking for grass on a bare field.

All the ewe lambs are getting good quality hay made in 2014 each evening since housing.

The hope is that by feeding them only in the evenings, it might cut down on the number lambing at night.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary

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