Lambs are thriving but wilting grass is a sign no two summers are the same

John Large

John Large

After another powerful month of grass growth the lambs are growing well, ewes are gaining weight before mating and even some extra baled silage has been made.

Last year we were trying to pick out dry fields to spread fertiliser on, 12 months later there are signs of grass beginning to wilt on the lighter soils. This just shows that no two years are the same.

Lambs are thriving well in the fine weather. It is very interesting to watch them run and play around gateways or anywhere there is a bare patch of ground by water troughs. It is very unusual to see this in September but it is a good sign that the lambs are thriving.

We sent lambs to the factory last week. They had an average light weight of 43kg and they killed out at 20.6kg. This works out at almost 48pc of their live weight.

These lambs were all off the typhon fields, all castrated at birth and 75pc of them graded U with a fat score of 2 and 3. I would be a happy man if all my lambs were as good. But it proves that if things go according to plan that it can be achieved.

In a dry year like this the typhon definitely works with high dry matter intakes and very little wastage.

The male lambs are all castrated at birth. Some people will say that entire male lambs grow faster than castrates and I would not disagree up to weaning time. My problem is after weaning, when they can be slow to put a good cover of flesh on them.

I also found that their kill-out was always disappointing and they had to be kept separate from the ewe lambs to achieve a decent growth weight.

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The castrated lambs may not get to the same live weight as the ram lambs, but I found due to their good kill-out and ease of management, they can come into the same money.

On a farm with a lot of lambs, the fewer groups of sheep you have the easier it is to manage the grass. So for us, no ram lambs means all lambs can be grouped by weight and fed accordingly.

The ewes have all been given a 20ml of Twin Plus mineral dose. Most of the ewes have put on weight since weaning and the group of the poorest ones are now down to 100.

These are a mixture of older ewes and young ewes that reared twins. This group are on good grass and should be okay by the time of mating, which is only a little over a month away.

All ewes have had their feet checked, with any that had long hoofs pared back and left soaking in the foot bath for a good 20 minutes, before standing on a dry clean area for one hour.

The remainder of the ewes are in two groups. One is on the out-farm following the ewe lambs; the other group follows the group of small lambs at home.

All ewes have been vaccinated against the Schmallenberg virus. This is a new vaccine and we do not know how it will work or whether it has to be repeated annually.

The primary reason for vaccinating was that with so many ewes lambing in a short time we would not be able to cope with weak lambs. I also wanted to prevent lambing difficulties and sick ewes after lambing.

Losses could be very high and a lot of potential information for Sheep Ireland would be lost.

Also, if the virus moves as it did in Britain, then the region where we live could see more cases as the virus moves north and west.

One has to weigh up the cost, at over €3 per ewe. I look at it like this: if the vaccine works, one lamb should cover the cost of the vaccine for 30 ewes.

Just remember the vaccine has to be administered three weeks before mating so do not leave it too late.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary. Email:

Irish Independent

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