Getting ewe body condition score to a 3.5 average is now the focus

Every effort should be made for ewes to gain weight.
Every effort should be made for ewes to gain weight.

John Largeindependent.ie

Now all ewes have been weaned and shorn. They are divided into three groups, the small number of ewes between condition score 2.0 and 2.5 are with the ewe lambs getting good grass. These ewes need plenty of grass and no hardship for the next 10 weeks. They need to put on about 12kgs before mating to get to their proper condition score of 3.5.

Some of these ewes may have been lame or maybe young ewes after rearing twin lambs and every effort should be made in the next two months to get these up in weight, we need to start now as a ewe puts on only around 1kg per week on grass.

The next group are from condition score 2.5 to 3.5. These ewes are grazing after the lambs and not being pushed hard to eat all the grass out as they need to put on some weight.

The last lot are ewes over 3.5. These don't need to gain any weight, just maintenance is required. They are grazing off a few paddocks that were not grazed out properly and have a butt of stemmy grass that needs a good cleaning out.

All ewes have been in the footbath and any that needed to have their feet trimmed were attended to. I find in this dry weather if you put in the effort of footbathing regularly you get good results and the benefit will be seen in better thrive, higher lamb litter size and a tighter lambing spread.

Monitored

All three groups of ewes will be monitored and checked every fortnight as they are going through the footbath with ewes being moved to a different group as required. Groups one and two decreasing in number and group three increasing -- I hope.

The rams have also had their annual NCT test with feet checked, a mineral dose and a boaster shot of Heptivac-P. This should be done well in advance of the breeding season to give the ram a chance to put on weight, because he will walk a lot and not eat much for the first few weeks when they are out with the ewes.

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We have a number of ewes that have lambed for five years and are still in good working order. These ewes are not needed for AI as we have 600 without them. We will possible put these to lamb in mid February using sponges and PMSG so they will be lambed in one week. The intention after lambing would be to feed the ewes well and give the lambs access to creep feed, with ewes and lambs sold by early June before we get that annual price drop.

We would also need to have some grass closed up early so they can be left outside as quickly as possible, as we would not have housing to keep them inside for long. It would not be a good idea to have a very big meal bill left after the sale of the lambs/ewes so grass would have to make up a lot of the diet.

A bit more thought may be needed on this idea or a good cull ewe price could be the answer. Someone made the suggestion that I should look for a contract for these lambs with a factory.

"Yes, if pigs could fly," I think might be the answer.

We sold more lambs this week with a bit more bite to the trade, factory agents ringing me back maybe not exactly, looking for lambs but at least showing more interest. The lambs weighed 43kgs live and died 19.7kg which is near 46pc. This is good off grass only. The next lot will be off the typhon and should die better, I hope their kill weight will be up near 21kg.

Quality

I attended two farm walks last week, a sheep farm and suckler farm, both had excellent grass management in place with excellent weight gain on both farms. Their stock were of high quality with very good breeding policies going back for a number of years giving very good weight for age on the beef farm, for example bullocks for slaughter at 20 months of age going to die over 400kgs. On the sheep farm, prolificacy and the milking ability of the ewe were the two key factors in getting lambs away early and plenty of them. The only disappointing outcome was not much money from either. I do not know where a 30pc cut in the single farm payment can be recouped on either farm.

One really important piece of information was to get your soil PH correct, which is not expensive and we will get a much better response to the fertiliser we spread as the percentage uptake is better where the soil PH is near 6.5.

  • John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary

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