Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

2013 crypto outbreak changes plans for next lambing season


Tom Staunton

The breeding season is almost complete and over the coming weeks I will begin to take up all Bluefaced Leicester rams.

Once the rams have been taken up, they will be put on 1kg/hd/day of concentrates to help them build up their reserves that they have lost throughout the mating season. I will leave the Scottish Blackface (Lanark type) rams with the ewes for a week or so longer.

All in all, the breeding season went quite well with very few repeats. I was delighted with the low number of repeats I had from the 70 Blackface Mountain ewes that I artificially inseminated. There were 13 repeats out of 70 which gives a hold to first service of a little over 81pc.

It's so far so good with this project, but getting the ewes in lamb is only half the battle. The real battle will begin over the coming months and into spring. In general there have been very few repeats throughout the flock and I think that the conception rates have been good for a number of reasons:

* The ewes were in the right condition before and at mating and they were on an increasing plane of nutrition;

* The ewes were dosed against fluke and were also treated with liquid trace elements before the ram was introduced which impacts on the immune system, fertility and hormone production;

* Ram management was good, with all the rams fertility tested. I checked the rams several times a day to ensure that they were tupping correctly, were following ewes, so I could put a raddle mark on them and to ensure they were healthy and not sick. I also gave some concentrates meals with high levels of oats to rams for energy. I use this meal on rams that are busy working and have no time to graze and also for rams that are losing body condition quicker than others. If there are any of the above, action is taken and rams are swapped with another ram or taken up completely and replaced. It is important to be vigilant and act immediately if something is wrong;

* The ewes were not put under any major stress.

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I will have some very busy days in spring, but I know which sheep are going to lamb and when they will lamb give or take a few days. I also can feed these ewes very accurately in the six to eight week period before lambing and I hope I will see some return from the Bluefaced Leicester ram I bought last year.

The last of the lambs on the farm were sold to the factory last week. I expect these lambs to kill out around 19.5-20Kg carcass weight. This has allowed me to take up land and allow a little grass regrowth and recovery before the fields will be grazed by ewes and lambs in spring. The replacement ewe lambs have been vaccinated and dosed with Heptivac P and with Flukiver. These lambs will be outwintered in dry sheltered fields on which a reserve of grass has been built.

If grass supplies are tight, these will receive concentrates but I'm hoping this won't be needed this winter.

Preparation is key over the coming months to ensure that it will be a successful lambing period. Each year brings different challenges and I try to be as prepared as I possibly can be. Last year I had a problem in sheds with infectious scouring.

I kept the pedigree Bluefaced Leicester ewes and lambs indoors on a straw bed and after a few weeks of age, these lambs started to develop severe scour problems. I thought I had absolutely everything as good as I could for them. They were well fed, on clean straw, well cleaned out and limed regularly.

The scour persisted. I have talked to my vet about the situation and carried out some more research myself. I believe that the scour was caused by Cryptosporidium and not by E.coli which I thought was the cause.

This year I have decided to move these ewes to a different shed as a precaution, but I will also use disinfectants with ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide that will kill off any Crypto that is present. Over the coming weeks and months, I will ensure that lambing pens are fitted, sheds are ready and lambing equipment is present and ready to go.

I will scan the recipient ewes from the embryo transfer, the pedigree Bluefaced Leicester ewes and the Mule ewes over the coming weeks.

This will give a good indication as to which recipient ewes are still carrying embryos. I think seven of the nine recipient ewes have held, which would give a yield of 11/13 embryos which would be fantastic.


These ewes will begin lambing in the middle of February and therefore it is important that I scan them earlier than the remainder of the flock who will be scanned in late December or early January so I can feed them accordingly. I find pregnancy scanning of ewes such a useful tool to manage feeding and the flock.

I hope that sheep farmers, and in particular productive sheep farmers, are remembered and not forgotten in the new allocation and restructuring of the single payment scheme which will be decided in the coming weeks.

Tom Staunton farms 350 ewes at Tourmakeady, Co Mayo. Email:

Irish Independent