Farming rollercoaster: great scan results and a trip to A&E


John Large

John Large

With Christmas and New Year festivities all behind us we are back into the usual routine of winter jobs. A quick change in the weather resulted in all ewes being housed over one week in mid-December.

Some of the ewes on beet-tops had enough left to eat for another two weeks but, with the heavy rain making underfoot conditions too wet and muddy, we decided to move them all indoors.

We left about 7ac of tops that were not eaten and we will put the empty and repeat ewes back out on this ground if weather conditions improve.

When we compare the date of housing with last year, about 30 days have been taken off the winter housing period thanks to good autumn grass growth and favourable weather for grazing.

The ewes are also in better condition than last year.

We scanned 622 ewes on December 31. The results are 101 ewes with triplets (16pc), 334 ewes with twins (54pc), 160 ewes with singles (26pc) and, most importantly, 27 empty ewes (4pc). There may even be a few of these empty ewes in lamb as three rams were not removed until we were housing one group of ewes.

A reduction in the number of empty ewes and a 6pc increase in the number of ewes carrying twins leaves us with a scan of 1.82 lambs per ewe to the ram. This is up from 1.75 lambs/ewe last year.

All ewes are being fed excellent quality hay. You would notice the difference when feeding with the tractor and straw shredder -- the machines are under no pressure and there is no dust.

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We are only meal feeding the triplet-carrying ewes and a few older ewes at a rate of 0.4kg/hd.

All the flock will be condition scored next week and divided according to their condition and scan results. We will feed any ewes in poor condition carrying twins.

The feed will be a mix of rolled barley, soya hulls and whole barley. Energy is the only requirement in the feed until three weeks from lambing, at which point we will put in protein using soya bean meal and bring the ration up to near 20pc crude protein.

We will kill more lambs this week off the fodder rape which will bring down the number left to sell below 100. This time last year we had nearly 400 left. The lambs put on weight quickly and kill-out has been very good.

The last lot we sold killed out at 21.8kg from a liveweight of 46.5kg, a rate of 47pc. Those lambs got no meal, although they did eat through the fodder rape quicker than I hoped so what lambs are left after this draft will have to get meal.

The ewe lambs are still on grass which is also nearly finished. We will put them onto a dry field and feed them bales of silage and a small amount of meal.

As they are not in lamb and in good condition, a maintenance diet should be enough for them. We will pick off any light ones, put them on their own and feed them an extra bit of meal.


Farming involves a lot of physical work and anything can happen during the course of your working day. Just before the New Year, while helping to open a silage pit with my brother, I slipped and felt my back go.

I went to the physio, who told me I had put a disc out and proceeded to put it back into place.

It was painful but with a few painkillers I could move about. We scanned the ewes the day after and I just took the easy job of standing around organising things, more or less doing nothing except getting in the way.

The next morning I was on my own spreading straw under the ewes. Some straw got stuck in the outlet shoot of the straw shredder so I reached up to clear it out. Not being able to reach I stood up on the draw-bar. Job done, only to get back down with a sore back.

I slipped and fell over the draw-bar and landed on my shoulder. Now I was in real trouble and ended up in A&E. Luckily nothing was broken, just muscle damage.

I cannot lift my arm much but at least my son and my neighbour Jason were here to look after things. It's so important to be careful while you work. Remember to keep your phone in your pocket so you can quickly call for help and try have someone who can bail you out for a few days while you recover.

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

Irish Independent

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