Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

An athletic ram has scuppered some of our plans

Sheep, particularly an athletic ram, manage to scupper organized plans
Sheep, particularly an athletic ram, manage to scupper organized plans
John Fagan

John Fagan

The countdown to lambing for 2015 has begun. Only four weeks away from the due date and no matter how much you think you are prepared for the first arrivals and the beginning of lambing, sheep always somehow manage to scupper any organized plan.

This year the arrival of lambs five weeks earlier than planned is nothing short of a nuisance. An athletic ram that I have, managed to jump a ditch and double fences of wire to cover around 30 of my ewes. It could be worse - they are arriving safe and well, albeit at inconvenient times when I have other stuff to do.

It is ironic, however, that despite not having received much feeding these ewes have lots of milk and the lambs are a healthy size.


Perhaps we can get too preoccupied with pumping feed into them in the run up to lambing, but they are in good condition which is clearly helping the situation.

Scanning went really well. I averaged 1.95 lambs per ewe throughout the main flock and 1.3 for the ewe lambs. I include all the empties when making these calculations.

I had been thinking about keeping the barren ewes. Research from Athenry has shown that the chances of them being barren again are very slim but I went through them to find that most of them were quite old so I kept two and sold the rest.

Te high prices for cull ewes were a help, and I can always keep a few extra of my own ewe lambs next year to replace them.

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I was also able to check with the factory to see if there was any issues with rumen or liver fluke. They came back as clean as whistle which is good to know.

I am gradually introducing a 20pc protein ration to my sheep. Roughly 150g per head per day and I will build this up slowly over the coming weeks to 0.5kg or the twins.

The ewes bearing triplets will get an extra 200 grams or so in the evening, two weeks out from lambing.

It is important to introduce feed to ewes gradually as overfeeding can have disastrous consequences such as severe prolapse, especially if your sheep are already in good condition.

If you are feeding over 0.5 kg you should split the feeding. If I spot one or two that are just not thriving I take them out of the shed.

Shy feeders or lameness as a result of the straw aggravating their feet will affect thrive so they are better off being fed outside.

This year I have students from UCD coming for March and it should be enough along with a French student coming later that is keen to learn English and get an insight into Irish sheep farming. I'm taking a break this year from taking on a student on a 12 week work placement.


I like having students around the farm. Their enthusiasm is great and it makes me sharpen up my act. Lambing should be the enjoyable part of the year.

This week the entire flock will be vaccinated with Covexin 10.

I usually do them with this each year but I held back from vaccinating my ewes too early.

Some farmers would recommend four weeks out from lambing to allow adequate time for the vaccine to work. I have to do the ewe lambs twice as its their first time to get the vaccine.

I was hoping to get fertiliser out in early February but it will be weather dependent.

There's not much point in putting it out in freezing conditions.

When I get the chance I will put out roughly one bag per acre of urea across the fields that I have held up for lambing.

In the meantime I'll be getting things sorted out around the farm yard. With the early arrivals it has pushed on preparations a good bit.

Hopefully the weather will sort itself out soon - I do not want a repeat of spring 2013.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath


Indo Farming