Keeping a 1,000 ewe flock fighting fit for spring
His farm will be in the limelight all this week on television, so John Fagan's sheep need to be in good shape
"There's always something," is John Fagan's summary of the latest health challenge encountered by his 1,000 ewe flock at Gartlandstown in Westmeath.
One morning this spring, the young farmer discovered four dead ewes out in the field.
"I guessed almost straight away that it was grass tetany, but I'd never seen it strike so early in the season before," he said.
"Normally, I would put out bucket licks from the start of April, and that would cover me.
"But the combination of new reseed that is producing lush grass earlier than my older swards, coupled with the hard frost that we got that night was what triggered the deaths.
"The ewes affected were the ones that had lambed first, so I suppose they were also producing a lot of milk, which would have left them even more prone.
"I've certainly had cases before - usually about one a year - so I'd always be on the look out for it. I've tried to treat them with the bottle of magnesium, but it never seems to do the trick.
"I've heard from other farmers that it does work, and the ewe can literally bounce up and away if you get to her in time.