Inspection paperwork eliminated by iPhone
All ewes have now been AI'd in two lots, on October 18 and October 21. The ewes were housed at lunchtime the previous day so their stomachs and bladders would be empty.
As this is an individual procedure, it is a labour intensive job. Firstly the rams arrive, semen is collected and tested. Each ewe has to be placed into the trolley and restrained. The vet then performs the AI procedure with the ewe in a seated upside down position. The ewe then has to be released from the trolley.
In all, seven people are needed for the job and it is a long day. The ram being used has his tag and breed pre-recorded into a handheld unit. The ewes, too, each have their tags recorded. As all information is electronically collected, few errors can occur.
The ewes are now in three groups of roughly 200, with three rams to pick up repeats. The ewe lambs are also being mated to three mature Charollais rams. When weighed, the heaviest ewe was 58kg, while the lightest was 41kg. So we got 120 over 45kg, which was our cut-off weight for mating. The remainder will be left dry and kept over to breed next year as hoggets.
All the dung was spread last weekend. This job was done by contractors, with two large spreaders and a loader, and it was all spread in a few hours.
As the weather has got very wet, cows and calves will be housed this week. The ewes will graze off any grass left and so will do a lot less damage. The bigger fields are being divided with electric fencing so they can be grazed off quickly, in about three days. This will help the new shoots attempt to grow and give them a chance to produce more for next spring.
With most of the lambs now sold, the remainder are on rape sown into barley stubble. The last load of lambs killed well. Maybe, from now on, we will have to feed meal. With the high price of meal, we will only feed 300g/hd.
It is important that no more lambs go back on grass, which is needed to keep ewes out as long as we can. Half of the ewes will go to fodder beet tops next month, again to lower the damage on grass.
We had our Quality Insurance Inspection last week and, yes, we passed. The big change was, again, no paper trail -- all was done by iPhone. To me, quality assurance is important and it is good to see factories starting to pay for it. However, with the consumption of lamb dropping, we have to offer more just to hold our own share.
The wholesale butcher who I sell to now tells me more of the butcher outlets and shops want to know and use more information about the primary producer, to include a photo, name and address of farmer. This I have no problem with.
Having read an article on sheep in New Zealand recently, the most striking fact was "4pc more sheep meat for 41pc less ewes in 20 years". This was achieved by making huge gain in management and productivity.
Just remember, we can aim for this too. The New Zealanders' numbers are now at an all time low and last year they failed to fill their EU quota. This should give us an opportunity to sell into France, keep our prices up and, maybe, we won't all have to milk cows.
John Large is a sheep farmer from Gortnahoe, Thurles, Co Tipperary
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