Attention has turned to getting sheds ready for winter months


John Large

John Large

In the absence of a huge amount of sheep work, our attention turns to getting sheds ready for the winter period. The floors, walls and feed rails are all power hosed and disinfected. We will then repair or replace anything that has been broken.

The timber in the feed rails gives us very little problems but the box iron uprights, which at ground level are just welded to a steel plate set in the concrete, do. These uprights can break off or bend from the pressure caused when the ewes are eating meal. We have replaced some of these uprights using box iron with a stronger wall thickness. They are working well as we seem to get a better life-span out of them. In a way, this is a problem we caused for ourselves by not using the proper material on the first day.

Water drinkers also require constant maintenance. There will always be either an overflowing bowl or leaking joining somewhere. Our water system has improved since we now have our own well, which means the water pressure remains more constant than from our former mains supply. We also have installed a stop valve on the pipe as it goes into each shed. This way we can stop the flow quickly and then deal with the problem. We use all plastic drinkers in order to prevent any corrosion problems.


Another job is to put a plywood panel on the inside of the doors where the bedding comes into contact with the door. This should help to save the bottom bar and the zinc iron. Some of the bars had to be replaced this year after only 10 years. Again, we probably should have used galvanised iron from the start. The moral of the story is to put in the proper material in the first place and it will pay for itself with a longer life span.

Meanwhile, we have one group of ewes feeding on fodder beet tops this week and another group on some rented grass. This grass should keep them for the next month if we divide up the grass and get it eaten out well.

There are 300 ewes still on our own grass, in one group, which get enough for one day and then move onto a new section. This grass is a heavy cover and moving each day works well on dry days, but the area is small and gets messy on wet days. The ewes graze off their allocation of grass quickly and are then content until next morning. However, we make sure to have the next day's plot ready so there is no waiting around when you come to move them.

The ewe lambs with the rams are on the out-farm. We put 150 of the 200 ewe lambs to the ram, leaving 50 of the lightest (under 45kg) until next year.

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We divide the fields into about three-acre paddocks and we get a week out of each one. With all cattle now housed, these ewe lambs should have enough grass until the end of next month.

Regrowth on the fields closed first is really good and one could be tempted to go back for a few extra days, but we avoid this because the grass will be worth twice as much next spring. If we graze it now, we will put back the spring growth by as much as two weeks.

The rams will be removed from ewes on December 5, so all lambs will be born by the end of April. The ewes were dosed with Flukiver for fluke last week. We will dose again when they are all housed, probably mid-January, with a fluke and worm combination dose.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary. Email:

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