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Wednesday 28 June 2017

Pedigree ewes have got the lambing season off to a flier

Denis O'Reilly from Drimoleague and his horse Emperor Sovereign on the beach at Inchydoney Island. Photo: Denis Boyle
Denis O'Reilly from Drimoleague and his horse Emperor Sovereign on the beach at Inchydoney Island. Photo: Denis Boyle

Tom Staunton

Our lambing season has begun. The Bluefaced Leicester ewes started it off. These Pedigree ewes were some of those that received frozen semen and I'm delighted to report that they all lambed down alive and healthy.

I'm very happy with the amount of colostrum and milk the ewes have and how lively the lambs have been so far.

We had three sets of triplets on this first bunch, with one ewe giving birth to a combined weight total of 18.4kg of lambs comprising of a 5.5kg, 5.8kg and 7.1kg lambs respectively. Good sized lambs for triplets.

All of the weights of the Bluefaced Leicesters are recorded for Lambplus, as are lambing difficulties. The weights of these lambs will be recorded as the year passes and growth rates will be calculated from this.

Some new bloodlines were introduced this year using AI and I'm eager to see how these will turn out as the year progresses.

The main flock has also started lambing. Lambing indoors this year has been a new experience and we are having to adapt to our usual routines.

We have a rota of checking ewes throughout the night and sometimes it goes out the window if a ewe is slow to lamb or is having a complication.

Once a ewe is ready to lamb, she is placed into an individual pen. This is bedded with straw and misted with Dominate liquid, a probiotic spray to reduce the infection pressure and prevent a build-up of disease such as E.coli etc.

The large pens are also sprayed when the straw is changed. Once in the pen the ewe is let lamb naturally and is assisted when needed. The udder is cleaned with a cloth and the ewe checked for milk. The lamb's navels are treated with a 10pc iodine solution.

Both ewe and lambs are monitored for 24 hours in the individual pens and are then let out to grass. Any weaker lambs are kept a little longer indoors and singles are often let straight to grass, weather depending.

Grass growth has been steady so far. The urea that was spread earlier has pushed on grass and there is good covers around the farm. The fields with more shelter are used first. They have been needed over the past few weeks with the windy and wet weather.

The silage fields will be eaten early to encourage new growth as I also intend to cut silage earlier this year. It is one obvious area where I can see potential cost reductions. There could also be knock-on health benefits of better body condition in ewes and, better milk production.

I have had a few cases of Listeriosis which I presume came from a few bales of silage. There were some bales damaged by birds and perhaps this is where the problem started.

Ewes circling and loss of movement on one side of the face which can result in drooling are some of the symptoms. I am very careful on what is fed to the ewes and any silage that looks mouldy is removed. Obviously, looks can be deceiving.

I lost one ewe and the rest have recovered well. Identifying the problem early is key for ewe survival. The ewes that were treated early with antibiotics and with anti-inflammatories responded well. Saying this, it is something I would prefer to avoid.

I have thought about using a silage additive this year as another protective tool to prevent this disease. I will investigate silage inoculants and organic acids over the next few months and see what experiences people have with them.

Perhaps being more prepared to cut silage at a better time of the year will be enough along with preventing bird damage to the bales.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo


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