Conception rates have dropped since last year

John Large

John Large

The ewes were all scanned at the beginning of January. We do not have as high a conception rate as last year since we're back to 68pc from last year's 75pc.

Our scan results are 405 ewes with a lamb crop of 1.87/ewe, 170 repeat ewes with a lamb crop of 1.64 with 31 ewes empty. The overall average is 1.70 lambs/ewes to the ram.

The empty ewes are too high at 5pc, but maybe this is something we just have to get used to when using AI. As regards the ewes in-lamb, we have 51pc twins (204 ewes), 18pc with triplets (73 ewes) and 31pc with singles (124 ewes).

The hogget ewes scanned poorly, probably because a lot of those that reared lambs last year turned out to be carrying singles this year. Why was this?

Maybe they were not heavy enough going to ram in the first year or not weaned early enough to give them time to recover after rearing their lambs. I'm making a mental note to treat this group of ewes separately in the future so they can achieve their potential.

After scanning was finished, the ewes were divided up according to the number of lambs they were carrying and their body condition score.

We started to feed the triplets and two pens of lighter twins 0.3kg of meal on January 9. These will be getting meal for nine weeks before they are due to lamb. We find that starting them off early helps hold their body condition score because the last thing we need is a thin ewe, fed well for the last four weeks of pregnancy only to produce a big lamb, but without the capacity to produce enough milk to feed it.

Since the third week of January, the remainder of the twins have been fed 0.3kg of meal. These will be pushed up to 1kg at lambing time with the triplets getting 0.2kg more. Once we go to 0.5kg, we will start to feed twice a day.

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The meal we are feeding now is made up of one third rolled barley, one third whole barley and one third citrus pulp. It is costing €206/t including 25kg/t of minerals.

We are making up this meal mix ourselves from barley we bought at harvest. There is no soya being used yet, as the ewe does not require it until three weeks before lambing. Then we will push onto an 18pc crude protein mix using soya as the protein source. All ewes have being dosed for fluke using a combination drench called Superverm. They are also put in the footbath every two weeks.

Last year's weather did not allow us get them out as often, so we had some foot problems at lambing.

The ewe lambs are still out on grass and I'm hoping that we'll have enough for all of February. If I get them scanned next week we will divide the twins into a field of their own and give them a small amount of meal.

The plan with the ewe lambs is to leave them out by day and into the shed at night once they start to lamb. We used this approach last year and see no reason to change.

We need to do some repairs to fences before lambing starts. Mostly, it'll be replacing broken stakes and strainers. I'm wondering what type of timber we should be using.

There are three options as far as I can see. PDM, which are pressure-treated stakes with creosote, imported pine and our standard pressure-treated spruce. The latter does not last long enough, especially if they are not dry before treating.

So I am going to try the PDM type in the hope that we get 15 years out of them.

The handling and post-driving of these is not a very clean or easy job, so it will be out with the gloves and goggles.

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

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