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Tuesday 17 January 2017

Weighing of stock key to maintaining peak fitness

Sheep

John Large

Published 27/09/2011 | 05:00

We weighed all the ewes this week. The hogget ewe weights showed a difference of 5kg between those that reared lambs and their comrades that were left dry for the summer.

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It is proof that if a ewe lamb is not heavy enough at mating, she will not get the chance to reach her mature weight by the following year. The hogget ewes' weight varied from a high of 74kg to a low of 51kg. The mature ewes average weight was 71kg. The heaviest ewe weighed 100kg but a few thin ewes were just 53kg.

The ewes are in very good condition this year and all will go to the ram, except two that have not put on much weight since weaning. I noticed a big variation between the ewes that were weighed after they were gathered from the field and the ewes that had been in the yard for half a day -- a difference of a few kilogrammes.

I also noticed that a ewe of, say, 75kg can be in a good condition score of 3.5, while a ewe of 66kg can also be the same score. This begs the question: what weight of ewes do we need?

For us, with a mid-season flock and selling all lambs finished, a 70kg ewe does the job. She does not eat as much as her 20kg heavier competitor, produces lambs that can get to a kill weight of 20kg off mainly grass and, most importantly, is easy to get back into condition before mating. If we were lambing earlier, then maybe a heavier ewe would be more suited.

We will now give a mineral bolus to all ewes. The bolus will be made up of copper, cobalt, iodine and selenium. These were given to half the ewes last year and we got a good response, with more healthy lambs born.

Last year, we dosed all ewes for fluke in September. From information supplied by the abbatoir where we kill the lambs, livers from our flock are all good. We will hold off on dosing until late next month.

The ewes and all other sheep on the farm will be dipped in the next week. This is our winter dip to control scab, which I have not seen for a long while. It also kills off any sucking lice, which I have seen. Sucking lice really cause a lot of irritation to ewes and result in a massive loss of weight.

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The ewe lambs were also weighed again and this showed up a big variation in weights, from 38kg to 56kg. They will be weighed again at the end of next month and any under 45kg will be left dry. We should get about 175 ewe lambs from 200 to go to the ram. This year, we bought two mature Llyen rams to run with the ewe lambs. The main driver behind this decision was to ensure easier lambing, with more of the flock being able to lamb unassisted.

The next job is to take dung samples from a number of lambs sired by each ram we used last year. From this, we hope to find a ram producing lambs with good worm resistance, which would be a great help in reducing labour and increasing growth rate.

Lamb sales are ongoing, with 50pc sold at this stage. No meal has been fed yet. They are killing out at more than 21kg and coming in at nearly €100 each.

This all sounds very good but we must remember that costs are still rising and we need it all to pay the bills and keep stock numbers up.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary. Email: johnslarge@live.com

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