Disease control at the forefront of plans as we prepare for housing

John Large

John Large

As we reach the end of the grazing season, half of the ewes are on fodder beet tops, which should keep them happy until early December.

That is unless we get heavy rain, which can have a big effect on utilisation, as more of the tops are trampled into the wet clay. There is also a big difference between fodder beet tops and what we used to graze after sugar beet. The latter always had a good crown left with the leaves and that is where the real value for the sheep was to be found.

The remainder of the ewes are finishing up what grass is left on our farm. This will only keep them for another week or so.

The ewes will be housed by December 1. They will get round bale silage for the first month and then we should have enough hay for the remainder of the winter. We find it easier to keep the bedding dry when we feed hay with the meal in late pregnancy.

The rams will be removed from the ewes on December 1 and all ewes scanned the last days of December. That is when we will know how good our conception to AI has been.

We have put the ewes through the footbath twice in the last month. This will be repeated every week between now and housing. When we put the ewes in, any that are lame will be penned together and their feet individually checked. These will get a run out to the footbath every few days. I find that when they are penned separately it is easy to let them out to stand in zinc sulphate for half an hour while I am feeding the rest.

We will use hydrated lime along the feed rails, just spread before bedding with straw. A good effort to keep lameness at low levels will be a big help in later pregnancy, when an outbreak of foot rot could cause major problems with prolapse, twin lamb disease, ewes with poor milk supply and even ewes lying down on new born lambs.

There are high fluke levels everywhere in Ireland again this year. All our ewes were dosed in late October with Flukiver. We will dose at housing again with a different product that will kill all stages from two-week-old immature fluke to adult fluke.

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We all know the symptoms of severe cases, but there are other symptoms, such as reduced fertility, reduced milk yield, low feed conversion efficiency and even poor carcass development.

The other thing to remember is that sheep are not able to develop resistance to the liver fluke parasite. So for good performance, sheep need to be disease free and all the flock should be treated. After the ewes are inside for more than four weeks, we will use a product that will kill off adult fluke only.

Last week we killed lambs at €4.50/kg to 21.5kg. The same week last year we got €5/kg to 22kg. That is a difference of €14 per lamb. I hope someone is getting money out of them because I am not.

We are feeding all the remaining lambs a mix of whole and rolled barley with some citrus pulp and a small amount of molasses. I know this year is completely different to last, but at these low prices lambs leave very little money.

The only good news is that a lot more lambs have been slaughtered this year and maybe the brave men who bought stores could be in for a good spring.

We will kill lambs as they become fit and hope to be cleared out by the end of January.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Thurles, Co Tipperary . Email: johnslarge@live.com

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