Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 9 December 2016

Christmas is coming and the lambs are getting fat

John Fagan

Published 27/11/2016 | 06:15

November is generally a quiet time of the year for me on the farm. The last of the lambs are gradually coming fit and it is good to see light at the end of the tunnel as I move to clear them out.

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I aim to have all of them gone before Christmas. There isn't much hope of finishing lambs off grass at this stage of the year so the remaining lambs have ad lib access to meal. These are mostly the lambs that were born in April to the ewe hoggets.

It is good to get the extra few euro for these lambs and Teagasc recommend that you should breed replacement ewe lambs as it adds to the bottom line. It is true that it makes sense financially, but at what cost physically?

I find that while lambing ewe lambs boosts income it certainly takes a toll on you in the spring. You are just finished the hectic lambing of the main flock and then you have to face in to lambing the ewe lambs. You're physically and mentally exhausted at this stage.

I also have the added responsibility of the dairy heifers that require a lot of work in May with A I so for me it is prudent to not breed my ewe lambs for this year. I'll let you know how I get on.

When I let the rams out on October 10 I also rang my scanner to book him in early January. I don't intend to let the barren ewes hang around for too long and I'll cull them straight away. At the time, I'll be sure to get their livers checked for fluke and if there is a problem I'll dose them.

I find scanning is absolutely crucial. You divide up the ewes based on what lambs they are carrying. It is vital to know this.

You cannot successfully manage them in the run up to lambing unless you know the amount of lambs they are carrying.

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You are essentially blind folded, feeding too much to ewes carrying singles and too little to ewes carrying triplets or twins. Book your scanner now as they'll be busy next January.

I now have 60pc of the farm closed off. I wish I had more. As soon as I remove the rams I am not going to delay and I'll house as many as I have room for.

The rams need a bit of TLC post breeding so I'll hop them in and feed them up.

It's worth having a look at fertiliser prices at the moment as there are good deals available if you buy large amounts and pay up front. Shop around.

The last month of the year is generally a compliance month for me. I catch up on all the paperwork which is something I dread. I think it's the getting started part that I dread the most.

I am setting up Herdwatch so any treatments from November 1 will be entered on this new app. I can't wait till I get a cross compliance inspection and I can print off all the data they want and live in peace.

It's tedious, boring and mind numbing. When I dreamt of being a farmer I never envisaged so much paperwork. It doesn't make my lambs any fatter or tastier or my heifers fatter but it has to be done I suppose.

I am getting the farm tidied up for another onslaught of Big Week on the Farm. This time they are doing the Christmas special. The show recently won an award from the Guild of Agricultural Journalists.

It was testimony to the hard work that the directors, producers, presenters, camera men, sound engineers and staff of sixty people that were involved in making the show.

They did farmers and rural Ireland a huge service putting smiles on faces the length and breadth of the country at the same time giving an insight into life in rural Ireland. It was a real privilege to be involved with it and I am delighted for them that they scooped an award.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

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