Great grass has cut out all meals
The first lot of lambing is now over. Conception rate to AI was disappointing since it was a lot lower than last year at about 60pc. Our scan results showed a lot of repeat ewes so we were not over surprised. However, lambing went well with mortality at less than 10pc. We also had plenty of singles to help foster the triplet lambs. We have only two ewes out yet rearing triplets.
All lambed ewes are out on grass only. There is so much grass available that we are not feeding meal to any. The weather is also excellent for utilisation and we only move ewes with lambs when all the grass is well eaten. No problems with muck in gateways or around hedges. We spread a half bag of urea in mid February and the growth response has been excellent.
In fact, we have so much grass that the late (second repeats) were let out and may even be lambed outside. We took all the singles and the oldest group of twins to the out-farm last week. All ewes and lambs have access to mineral buckets. We use a Zintec "three in one" bucket which covers grass teteny in ewes and orf and coccidosis in lambs. Since we started to use these buckets, we have not vaccinated any sheep for orf and have seen a big improvement in coccidosis.
We have also tried to get better at grassland management, especially in April, in relation to disease control. We find that if we graze very tight at this time it can put the lambs under pressure and give the coccidia a better environment to thrive.
Our main problem in lambs this year has been joint-ill. We are finding lambs less than a week old with swelling on one or more joints. We have had almost 15 cases so far. The best for treatment is a long course of antibiotic injections each day for a week.
To do this they have to be brought back to the shed, as it is not possible to catch them outside after the first few treatments. They improve well if caught early enough but if you do not continue the treatment they go lame again within a week.
The repeat ewes are starting to lamb now as are the ewe-lambs (hoggets). With no vaccine available for enzootic abortion, all the ewe-lambs were given two injections of long-acting oxytet. The first one is given at 105 days after the ram was introduced, while the second one is given after 130 days. I do not yet know how effective this will be but I would be very interested to know what other farmers are doing.
We out-wintered the hoggets carrying singles on grass only because we knew that they would be late lambing. Going by the size of their lambs, I could have been a bit more restrictive on the amount of grass.
These are out by day and into the shed by night. Their comrades carrying twins were being fed silage and 0.3kg of meal in February. Due to the amount of grass we had, these were let into a field of good grass for most of the month of March.
Some people may ask how we manage to get them back inside in the evenings. The simple answer is "a good dog", one of which is said to be worth four good men or a dozen children when gathering sheep.
The dog I have is a good farm dog, who knows her commands, even though she might be just a little over interested. But you don't need a trial dog like you see on One Man and his Dog.
I could not manage without her and we end up doing most jobs together. Just remember the important thing is to have enough work to keep them happy. There is no point in going to the trouble of training or buying a dog and have it tied up every day.
John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary
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