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Insurance costs now top of my office work agenda

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Preparations for the mating season are well under way

Preparations for the mating season are well under way

Preparations for the mating season are well under way

As breeding season is draws to a close, all the rams are being removed and given a health check. It has been a busy time for them and they need some TLC so I'll house them and feed them up in a sheep version of the Hilton.

Despite my best efforts, some of my rams became quite lame during the breeding season. It's hard to understand since I had been looking after them extremely well throughout the year.

Lameness generally isn't a problem for me on the farm.

Whenever a bit of scald sets in, a run through the foot-bath generally sorts it out, but my rams have been a different story. However, I believe the problem might be that some of my rams are more prone to lameness than others. For this reason I believe the best way to remedy this is to cull persistently lame rams. This is easier said than done, as a good ram averages at €600 but I'm going to have to get rid of the few that constantly showed up lame, despite all the treatment.

I've booked my scanner, Gerry Rice, from Louth for January 7 at 8am. Gerry has a serious set up and he can get through the entire scan of 1,125 ewes in just four hours.

I've just 125 lambs left from 1,700 lambs that were born on the farm this year. It has been a phenomenal year for lamb thrive on the farm.

I used meal to finish off my ram lambs which worked out at about €7 per head, but when I averaged this cost over all my lambs it came just over €2 in meal to finish them at an average price of €100. Not bad. A number things were in my favour.

This year has been an exceptional grass growing year. My sheep were never on the back foot in terms of grass demand throughout the year. I've been getting the hang of measuring grass and moving stock more regularly. I don't run out with the platemeter every Monday but regularly monitoring the height of grass in terms of not letting it get below 4cm has been of benefit.

I also made a conscious decision to monitor soil fertility and reduce stocking rates to make the job of managing my flock a lot easier. Less really is more.

I have also found that being part of a discussion group has been really helpful. I have only positive things to say about STAP, the Teagasc co-ordinator David Webster, and indeed the members of our group.

It is just such a pity that STAP is closed to more entrants, including young farmers, due to a lack of funding.

It is only through more efficient farming that we can be profitable, which is becoming more essential each year as the SFP gets squeezed.

The end-of-year office work continues and the biggest thing on my agenda lately has been insurance.

The premium for my farm has gone up by €800 since last year. I thought that this was a bit steep so I am pricing around. I have had a couple of claims over the last number of years but nothing that significant and generally it didn't raise my premium year on year.

You'd have to be the unluckiest person on the planet for all the things they say you should be covered for to happen. I think that public and employer's liability is a must, along with fire and theft for numerous things around the yard.

If you tagged on all the things they want you to sign up for after that, your insurance premium can go into the thousands.

One thing I have had included to my premium is dog worrying. I think that it is important as a sheep farmer to have this as we all know the devastation a dog attack can cause to a flock and it is not always easy to trace the culprits.

You also need to be careful that you actually read your statement making sure that all the things you think you are insured for are mentioned and that you don't find out when something unfortunate does happen that you didn't tick a certain box.

As this is my last article for 2015, have a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I'm scheduled to do my trailer test in December - I just hope I pass it now after all my giving out.

John Fagan is a sheep and beef farmer based in Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath.

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