John Large: Suffolk, Texel and Belclare top weights

A Suffolk lamb.
A Suffolk lamb.
John Large

John Large

We have had a big increase in grass growth over the last few dry weeks, allowing us to cease all meal feeding for the ewes. Only one group of lambs is being creep-fed. These are made up of ewes rearing triplets, thin twin ewes and a few ewes that got mastitis since lambing. These lambs are eating about 0.4kg per head.

We put the creep feeder outside the gate to the next paddock as this gets the lambs to creep graze ahead of the ewes. We use a creep gate that can be moved easily from each paddock. All the rest of the twin lambs and their mothers are on grass only with the dry hoggets used to clean off after them. Grass quality is still very good so we are grazing down to 4cm.

All the lambs were dosed a week ago for nematodirus with a white drench. Up to this a few lambs in each group were scouring, but all have dried up since and I'm hoping that this will prevent the coccidiosis problem that we had last year.

All the lambs were weighed at 40 days by the Sheep Ireland crew. The average age was 42 days and our average daily gain was 290g.

There was a huge variation from a single of 31kg to a small triplet of just 9kg. A very interesting piece of information was the difference in weight across breed. The Suffolk, Texel and Belclare lambs are at the top with an average weight of 21.5kg.

The Charollais, Blue Leicester and Vendeen are in the middle weighing 18kg, with the Lleyn and Rouge way behind at just 12kg.

I know that we should take into account that there may be a difference in age and maybe some difference in litter size but the lighter lambs have a lot of ground to make up on the heavy ones.

It should be interesting to see what the next weighing shows up as all the lambs will be weighed again at 120 days.

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The next job is to put the lambs through the footbath, and a mineral dose – probably Lamb Boost. They will also get their first injection of Heptivac P and a follow up booster shot before weaning at the end of June.

They will be 14 weeks old then with most of their diet coming from grass. At this stage I think there is no point leaving them with their mothers, since they are both competing for the same grass.

When you wean early you also have the time to get the ewes divided up and give the lighter ones better grass to get their condition score right for next breeding season.

We have ground closed up for silage now. This received two bags of 18-1-12 and one bag of urea. We have 30ac closed up now, mostly for silage but we're always hopeful of making a bit of hay too.

The field that we hope to cut first is ear-marked for re-seeding, so it will get a spray of Round-up before cutting.

Weather permitting, we'll sow it immediately after baling. A further 10ac has already been sprayed off since the end of April. This will get a quick grazing four days after being sprayed off before sowing. One field will get farmyard manure before ploughing, while the other will be sown with the usual min till system.

The reason for going to the expense of ploughing is because this field needs to be levelled before sowing. All the fields will be sown with Typhon mixed through the grass seed at 1.5kg/ac.

These fields will receive lime and three bags of a compound fertiliser like 18-6-12. The grand plan is that these fields will be ready for grazing by weaned lambs at the end of June.

The other job looming is the shearing of the dry hoggets and rams early in May.

This will give them a boost and keep them free of any fly strike for at least another month.

We will dag all ewes with lambs since they won't be shorn until late July.

A pour-on will probably also be necessary to seal the deal against fly strike.

  • John Large is a sheep farmer from Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

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