I am putting more emphasis on pre-lambing nutrition

Lambing season is on the way.
Lambing season is on the way.

Tom Staunton

There are many jobs to be attended to as lambing approaches: sheds to be prepared, lambing pens to be erected, lambing equipment dusted off and lambing essentials gathered while ensuring the feeding of ewes correctly pre-lambing is not forgotten.

I did my annual lambing essentials shop recently and got all the usual products. These essentials include: Iodine 10pc, colostrum, gloves, marking spray, lubricant, prolapse harness, rubber rings, stomach tubes and syringes, Calcium 20pc injection, energy supplement (for ewes) and needles.

I also cleaned out the automatic lamb feeder and have changed some of the tubes and teats. I'll need this with the first bunch of ewes lambing as there aren't many single ewes lambing and there are a few triplets and one quadruplet.

I find the feeder good if it is routinely cleaned. I add a supplement to the milk replacer to help to prevent scour and aid digestion. I also ensure that there is clean water and a cooked ration available to the lambs at a young age. I find that lambs thrive well if the milk is fed ad-lib. I run into problems if they run out of milk for a while and then gorge themselves on the next fill of milk.

The Pedigree Bluefaced Leicester ewes will be the first to lamb. These ewes started getting supplementation about a month ago.

The ration used at this stage was a very basic ration with 16pc crude protein (CP). I have changed ration since and am now also using a 16pc CP ration and I am adding soyabean meal to this myself to help increase the protein levels.

I have increased the level of feeding also. The Bluefaced Leicester ewes are carrying mostly twins and triplets and are currently receiving 1kg of concentrates per day, this feed is split morning and evening with some grass silage also.

I'm looking forward to the Bluefaced Leicester ewes lambing as I have used a few new rams this time and I also have some good replacement hogget ewes lambing for the first time.

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I find lambing the pedigree ewes a few weeks before the main flock a great advantage as I have more time to deal with them and they also lamb inside which gets me ready for the Blackface ewes that lamb outside.

I am putting a bigger emphasis on feeding the ewes pre-lambing this year. The lamb foetus does most of its growth (70pc) in the final six weeks of gestation. It is critically important to manage ewes correctly at this stage.

There is evidence that the feeding of ewes pre-lambing can have an impact on the weaning weights of lambs. Improving pre-lambing feeding can also help increase lamb birth weight and improve mortality rates.

The Blackface ewes (Lanark and Mayo types) will begin to lamb in early March with most of them lambing around St Patrick's day. These ewes are now getting fed concentrates at 0.5Kg/head/day.

Minerals and vitamins

The ewes seemed in good enough order when I had them in for another fluke dose. I also drenched any thinner ewes with a mineral and vitamin supplement.

All ewes will get this in two weeks' time. The reason for this is that the requirement for minerals and vitamins increases at the end of gestation.

I scanned the 20 Lanark ewe lambs that I let to a Bluefaced Leicester ram lamb. There are 15 of them in lamb with 12 singles and three couples.

The ram was taken up from these reasonably early, so I don't mind a few of them not in lamb. These were April 2015 born lambs and will lamb down just gone a year old. These lambs will receive more attention and care than the dry hoggets pre-lambing but also after lambing and before mating later on this year. If all goes well I might try some more next year.

The wet weather over the last few months has made ground conditions very difficult.

I lamb and feed the majority of my ewes outside and the underfoot conditions are not easy when feeding the ewes at troughs. I want to get some fertiliser out on some of the ground early in the spring to help grass growth, but it's not looking likely at the moment.

Tom Staunton is a sheep farmer from Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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