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Thursday 8 December 2016

Breeding season gets off to a perfect start on Mayo sheep farm

Tom Staunton

Published 13/11/2016 | 15:00

Recent conditions have been ideal for ewes and rams. Photo: Getty Images
Recent conditions have been ideal for ewes and rams. Photo: Getty Images

The past number of weeks have seen ideal conditions for both ewes and rams. It has also allowed me to continue to feed the remaining lambs at grass while giving them additional concentrates.

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The lightest 30 of the remaining lambs have been housed this week and will remain there till finish. They are on a three-way mix of barley, flaked maize and soya hulls.

This ration comes in at €270/t delivered loose. These lambs will be worked up slowly to ad lib feeding over the next few weeks. They were getting feeding outside at grass, therefore the transition to the ad lib finishing diet should run much smoother.

The lambs will also receive a source of roughage in the form of hay. I am providing this to slow down the rate of passage of feed through the rumen. I check the water bowls every day to ensure that water is fresh and clean.

There is risk of sickness such as ruminal acidosis if lambs are finished on high levels of meal. My experience is that it's best if the feed is gradually introduced to lambs outdoors first and then increased slowly over a couple of weeks - this allows the rumen to adapt. There are feed additives available which can help with this.

If I was feeding a large number of lambs I would definitely consider using these. I find providing roughage to these lambs important too.

The amount eaten will decline as the meal feeding increases.

I should have all these lambs away by Christmas. I am hoping that that the price of lamb will start to improve towards the end of November after its recent tumble.

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The more forward lambs that are still at grass will be finished over the next two weeks. The dry spell has allowed them to graze out a newly re-seeded field. This field will then be rested until next March.

Both ewes and rams are in good body condition this year. I had some good reserves of grass for improving the body condition of ewes on the run up to mating and for flushing ewes just before and during the season.

Ewes have come in heat sooner than usual with a large amount of ewes tipped over a short period.

Raddling of rams was carried out and a close eye was kept on all, watching for any ewes repeating.

I have seen a few ewes repeating but nothing so far that would set off alarm bells telling me that a ram is not fertile.

The next few weeks should see all ewes tipped. I will begin to take up some of the rams that lost body condition over the season. These will then be fed some concentrates to help build them back up into fitter shape.

I have begun closing off fields that I will use first in spring. These will be rested until March as the wind down to the year begins and preparation for lambing starts.

One small but important job over the next while will be taking silage samples.

Once I get the results back I can then see how much meal will need to be fed to in-lamb ewes and what type of feed I will need, do I need more/less protein etc. It may save me over-feeding or underfeeding ewes.

By testing the silage I can make sure that the ewes are fed correctly, especially during the final six to eight weeks of pre-lambing.

This is to ensure good lamb growth, colostrum production and good milk production which is so vital for lamb growth in spring.

Tom Staunton farms at Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo

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