Farm Ireland

Saturday 25 November 2017

Explosion of grass is real relief

TImmy Fleming

SINCE I last wrote, grass growth has exploded and we now have plenty of grass thanks to the rain plus the fertiliser that we spread in July. We weaned our lambs on July 15 and they are currently grazing grass heights of around 7-8cm. The dry ewes are following the lambs and grazing out the fields properly. We are feeding meals to a few of the smaller lambs and lambs off ewe lambs, but the vast bulk of lambs have not received any meals to-date and we don't intend to change this given the amount of grass we currently have.

At weaning time all the lambs were dosed for stomach worms with an ivermectin (Genesis) and they have also received Vector pour-on to prevent blowfly strike. All sheep have been foot-bathed a number of times in a 10pc bluestone (copper sulphate) solution to help keep lameness at bay. Lambs will receive cobalt supplements in the coming days. We are experimenting with boluses from Animax, Mayo Healthcare and a home-mixed oral drench, to see which is the best.

Our early lambing flock of ewes (50 ewes) were mated on July 19. We used our own Texel rams plus four Charollais rams which we borrowed from a group member. All appears to have gone well. We raddled the rams for the repeats and not one single repeat showed up. So either we will have had a great take or something has gone wrong -- scanning time will tell us how well things have gone. We will scan the ewes 40 days after the repeat matings were due. Any ewes not in lamb will be transferred to the April lambing flock.

We intend to mate another 60 ewes with the intention of lambing them in the middle of February. From a labour point of view we will sponge these ewes so that the lambing will be compacted into a few days.

Sponges will be inserted on September 7 and we will pull them on September 19. We will inject with 500 units of PMSG at the time of sponge withdrawal. The ewes being used are mostly Belclare/Suffolk crosses so we are hoping that we will get away with this amount of PMSG without having excessively large litter sizes (above two lambs per ewe). Rams will be introduced on September 21 at a ratio of one ram for every 10 ewes.

We need to buy some Texel rams, hopefully hoggets, at the upcoming sales. We intend to buy two hoggets but if we can't get good ones we will settle for three ram lambs. Given that we lamb outside we like to use Texels as they are that bit hardier at birth. We used some Charollais rams for the early flock so it will be interesting to see how they compare. This flock will be lambing indoors so weather conditions will not be an issue. We do not have enough labour or facilities to lamb the main mid-season flocks indoors.

We brought the mountain ewes and their lambs down on July 30 for shearing. The lambs were dosed for stomach worms (Genesis) and given Vector Pour on (mainly for ticks but also blowfly). We picked two of the best wether lambs that came straight off the mountain.

They were sold to the Killarney Plaza Hotel in Killarney, through the Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb Group. They killed out at 16.9kg and 15.5kg, which impressed me given that they have received nothing but mountain pasture and fresh air since they went to the mountain on May 25. Since Easter we have drafted and sold around 140 lambs (six to eight lambs a week) through the Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb Group and to-date that has been sufficient to keep stock moving off the farm. However, we now have around 100 lambs that are over 40kg so we need to start moving some of these to another source. Most of the lambs will go to an export slaughter plant but some of the females will be kept back and sold at our first-ever live sale of replacements and store lambs for the Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb producers which will be held in Milltown Mart, Milltown, Co Kerry on Tuesday, August 31.

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