Breeding ewe lambs is a specialist but profitable job

Event: Pictured at a Teagasc National Sheep Open Day in Corrin Mart, Fermoy were Kevin McDermott, Sheep Ireland, John Horgan, Teagasc Midleton, Catherine O’Leary, MSD Animal Health & Michael Gottstein, Head of Sheep Programme, Teagasc. O’Gorman Photography.
Event: Pictured at a Teagasc National Sheep Open Day in Corrin Mart, Fermoy were Kevin McDermott, Sheep Ireland, John Horgan, Teagasc Midleton, Catherine O’Leary, MSD Animal Health & Michael Gottstein, Head of Sheep Programme, Teagasc. O’Gorman Photography.

Tom Staunton

The shearing is finished and the wool is sold. At 40c/kg for Scotch wool and €1.25/kg for crossbred wool, wool is definitely more hassle than what it is worth. Shearing is a job that has to be done but the price of the wool doesn't reduce the cost of shearing by much.

I have some of the older and stronger lambs weaned on the farm. I weaned the Mule ewe lambs but left the wether lambs on the ewes for another two weeks. This is not as stressful for the ewes and it also gives the wether lambs a chance to push on for two weeks. I hopefully will sell many of the wether lambs off the ewes.

The Scotch Blackface lambs which were born slightly later have not been weaned and won't be for another week. I am very happy with the thrive of these lambs and am impressed the Scotch Blackface ewe lambs from the Lanark ram that I bought last year from renowned breeder John Harkin.

I will have a batch of lambs ready for slaughter next week. These lambs are ready now but I checked back on when I dosed them last and there is still a few days of a withdrawal period left. Hopefully the price won't slip any further over the next week.

I weighed all my Mule ewe lambs on July 2. I decided to do this so next year I can compare where I'm at exactly. I can use it as a benchmark for years to come. The lambs weighed an average of 81lbs or 36-37kg. I was happy with this as there are some young lambs on this, but they have seemed to grow well. They are well on target for the Mule and Greyface sale at the end of August. I want all my lambs to give the buyer the option to breed them in their first year.

Breeding a ewe lamb is a specialist job and it doesn't suit every farmer's system. I have bred ewe lambs in the past and I have been extremely happy with the outcome. With the system I am currently operating, breeding ewe lambs doesn't suit. For those who have an interest in breeding ewe lambs there are a number of advantages.

Mule ewe lambs for example can rear anything from 1.0-1.5 lambs.

This leaves the farmer with greater output from his/her flock but also leaves the farm with cheaper ewe hoggetts that have paid their way over the winter.

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Care must be given to ewe lambs for breeding pre and post mating but also at lambing. I would only breed lambs over 45kg and would prefer them to be 50kg+ at mating. I would also lamb them down separate to the mature flock. This gives time to spend with them at lambing and feeding can be monitored more closely.

Weaning is the perfect opportunity to evaluate ewe performance. I have watched ewes and their lambs for the past few months and have kept an eye on the performers. Keeping an eye on the ones performing is one thing but keeping an eye on those that aren't performing is just as important.

Ewes that are not performing are scrutinised and those that do not meet the criteria are marked for culling. Ewes for culling will be dried off and will be slaughtered once body condition is correct. Some ewes will be able to be sold straight away but others will be around another while to reach target.

The ewes that will be kept on the farm for the next breeding season will be stocked tight on bare pasture for a week to help them dry off. Ewes that have performed well will be ear-marked for using as mothers for replacement ewes.

Tommy Boland mentioned last week that the crows at Lyons Estate were thriving well, I'd like to compare them to 'my crows' who have done particularly well also.

Tom Staunton, is a sheep farmer from Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

Indo Farming


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