Farm Ireland

Friday 27 April 2018

Good preparation now will save time and money come the winter

Percy Hogan and
Paddy O'Brien
from Fenagh,
Co Carlow, check
the teeth of
some of the
stock at Tullow
Sheep Breeders'
Show and Sale
last Wednesday
Percy Hogan and Paddy O'Brien from Fenagh, Co Carlow, check the teeth of some of the stock at Tullow Sheep Breeders' Show and Sale last Wednesday

Peadar Scanaill

The nice spell of weather last week makes deepest winter seem far away. We all wish that were true, but prepare we must and now is the best time to do some chores.

Parasite levels on pasture will be at their height in September and as the grass slows in growth it will be grazed quite tightly. This means shorter leaf and more eggs and larva on each blade. Fluke is the biggest problem and will cause greatest loss. We have a further problem with a developing resistance to flukenides. We also have a narrow range of products, so prudent and focused use in encouraged.

Never be afraid to check dung samples. It's easy to collect a sample. A simple freezer bag can be used and a fresh dung just produced can be collected just like the 'pooper-scoopers' on the dog walks on our city streets.

Label the bag and bring it to your local vet for dispatch and instructions. Dung samples, for evidence of parasites, are relatively inexpensive and a very useful guide to the level of challenge on the farm. It will always lead to a discussion with your vet as to what wormer or flukenides to use and how best to use them.

Moving to other matters, the increase in the price of grain will make for dearer winter feeds this season. We have been spoilt over the past two years with an unnaturally low price for grain.

The trend this year will be for a higher cost of winter feed and this could lead to reduced use of these products.

Vitamins and minerals are usually included in the compound foodstuffs and reduced feeding will reduce mineral and vitamin intake.

One such casualty will be copper inclusion and this may lead to a deficiency.

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Our ewes are pumping all they can into the developing embryo in December and January.

Low copper levels in the ewe will leave a poor supply for the unborn lamb. Swayback, a nervous condition in lambs, is caused by copper deficiency during the pregnancy as the developing embryo is growing all its nerves and muscles. A copper deficient lamb is born with, or soon develops, a paralysis that is incurable.

Other minerals and vitamins that are included in winter feeds would be calcium and magnesium, a shortage of either will see a sudden rise in cases of tetany in the pregnant flock.

Prevention is always better than treatment with any condition but especially with tetany. Several cases of tetany in any one flock will cause a lot of time wastage, treatment costs and all too many dead ewes.

Calcium inclusion in the final weeks of pregnancy is paramount. The bones of the developing embryo draw calcium from the mother and the calcium drain increases as the pregnancy progresses.

One final unrelated point this month is the preparation of the winter sheds. Feeding and watering areas of sheds can be improved upon in many cases.

The water troughs, with their associated leaks and wet areas, will be a harbour for diseases of all kinds. Fix the leaks; dry and clean the area and use lime where possible. An afternoon of preparation saves weeks of problems later in the year.

I hope we all enjoy a long autumn of grazing and keep the house use to a minimum. And don't forget to dose.

  • Peadar O Scanaill MVB MRCVS is a Veterinary Practitioner in Ashbourne, Co Meath, and a member of Veterinary Ireland's Animal Health Committee. E-mail:

Irish Independent