Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 25 March 2019

All the attention is on this year's lamb crop

Lucy (8) and Ethan (5) Williamson with the first twin lambs of the season born on the farm of their neighbours, Eddie Storey and his son Robert, outside Dunlavin, Co Wicklow. Pic. Siobhán English.
Lucy (8) and Ethan (5) Williamson with the first twin lambs of the season born on the farm of their neighbours, Eddie Storey and his son Robert, outside Dunlavin, Co Wicklow. Pic. Siobhán English.
John Large

John Large

Ewes have been scanned and divided into groups according to the number of lambs they are carrying and their condition score. From the 623 ewes served by AI, we have 531 in-lamb, which works out at very close to 85pc.

That is the best result we have ever had since starting to use AI. These ewes are carrying a lamb crop of over 1.85 lambs per ewe, made up of 100 triplets, 271 twins and 160 singles.

This works out at over 50pc with twins, 30pc with singles, and 20pc with triplets. I would like to have more twins and less triplets and singles, but how we can achieve this I just don't know.

From my experience, when the lambing rate increases over 1.7 lambs per ewe, the number of triplets increases a lot more than the number of twins.

This means you need more labour for fostering lambs and looking after smaller lambs from these multiple births. The only thing that we can do is divide off the triplets and start to feed them early.

We have been feeding them since the end of December, which is 10 weeks before lambing.

This extra few weeks of feeding will give us stronger lambs, keep the ewe in good order before she lambs and ensure that she has at least enough milk to rear two lambs.

We are also feeding two pens of twin-bearing ewes that are in poor condition. We will start feeding all the remaining twins nest week, which will be six weeks before lambing. We are using a three-way mix of barley, soya hulls and maize gluten.

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This will change to a 18pc, high protein mix three weeks before lambing. The single ewes will only start meal three weeks before lambing. All ewes are on hay as their forage. After last year's good summer this is very good quality, and I can see it working its magic in the condition of the ewes.

The repeat ewes are on fodder beet tops and have not been scanned yet.

This will be done next week and any ewe not in lamb will be sold. With very good price available for cull ewes there is no reason to keep them.

We are finished selling last year's lambs, with the final load gone just last week. These lambs were fed since the beginning of December on fodder rape and a small amount of meal. They performed well, and we got good utilisation of the crop.

The rape did not grow as tall as other years, and there seemed to be very little stem compared to the amount of leaf material.

We allocated about 2ac every three or four days, which prevented the lambs walking over a big area and trampling the rape into the ground. The good weather also had a big effect on utilisation.

With 2014's lambs now all sold we can concentrate all our energy on the ewes and this year's lamb crop. We will spread nitrogen when soil temperature increases, which hopefully will be early February.

We plan to put out half a bag of urea on the fields closed up early and cattle slurry on the fields with the least amount of grass cover on them.

John Large is a Tipperary sheep farmer.

jlarge@ independent.ie

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