Eight different breeds of ram ups our reliance on star rating
The past few weeks have been spent preparing the ewes for the mating season. They have put on a good amount of weight after the dry weather to bring most of them up to a body condition score of more than 3.5. Very few ewes are at a score 3 or less, just a few older or lame ones.
This year we are carrying about 20 more ewes than normal so there is room to cull any that have not put on enough weight. We will cull off about 10 more because if they are not in good enough condition at mating, they will not be in good enough condition at lambing. One could be tempted to keep them, especially with cull ewe prices down by €10/hd on last year.
All the ewes, rams and ewe lambs have been dipped. We also dipped 120 of the smallest lambs that will not be sold until later in the year. These lambs will be finished on fodder rape, a forage crop which was sown after the spring barley was cut. The crop was sown on August 23 and it rained the following day so we had shoots overground seven days later. However, it stopped growing for the following three weeks. The field turned green alright, but this was due to volunteer barley not the fodder rape.
We spread one-and-a-half bags of 27pc nitrogen with sulphur on September 20 and since then it has really started to grow.
We sprayed the field to kill off the volunteer barley last week and with the rain and temperatures holding in the mid teens, it should grow well for the next few months. It will give us plenty of feed to finish the last of the lambs before the new year.
We sponged half of the ewes on September 28 and the remainder were sponged on October 3. The ewes are mated using laproscopic AI after the sponges were removed and PMSG administered two days beforehand.
This year the rams being used all have high star ratings of four or better for production and maternal traits. For the last four years we used rams that would create better linkages within their breed and give higher reliability figures for their production and maternal traits.