Farm Ireland

Friday 19 January 2018

Lameness no longer a problem with foot bath

John Fagan

John Fagan

Now that the silage is cut, the last remaining 'big job' of the summer is to get the sheep shorn. I think that this year I will leave it as late as possible. Normally I would be rushing to get it done earlier but there is no real benefit to pestering the ewes just when their lambs are beginning to thrive.

They are all dagged and the amount of flystrike has been small, so I will chance leaving it until after they are weaned in mid-July.

The lambs are gradually getting fit, albeit a month later than normal. I gave them their second dose and I was pleasantly surprised with how well they were doing and I hope to start drafting soon.

Foot Bathing

One batch of ewes and lambs got a bad setback with foot scalds. I was able to treat this quickly by foot bathing them with zinc sulphate. I have built a batch foot bath on the farm which works really well.

It is built into the yard in such a way that allows me to dose one batch of sheep, while simultaneously footbathing the previous batch.

They therefore have at least 4-5 minutes in the bath while I am working and then they have a drainage area where they can stand to allow the solution to dry into their feet.

It now means that I can deal with lameness quickly and effectively. I would recommend anyone to use this system.

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Prior to installing the foot bath I had a haphazard way of dealing with lameness. It was always a struggle to get on top of it. Lameness in the flock can often be the thing that drives people out of sheep farming but I have found that dealing with it in this way solves the problem.

You will always have sheep with scalds, but it is essential to foot-bathe them as often as possible, if not every time you have them in the yard.

If you are really scientific you can get a hydrometer which will tell you how much zinc is left in the water, saving you money. In order for a zinc sulphate foot bath solution to be effective against lameness it must contain between 5-10pc zinc.

The other beauty of a zinc sulphate bath is that the solution can be used time and time again, unlike other foot bath treatments such as Formalin, which costs the same and is of no further use once the water becomes soiled.

After grass

Having cut my silage almost a month earlier than last year, I did not delay in getting the last remaining slurry out. Last year the absence of lush aftergrass after weaning did not help my lambs thrive so I do not intend to miss this opportunity this year.

I am strongly considering introducing meal to my lambs post-weaning. It is not something that I would normally do but I am anxious to keep my lambs moving this year as I do not want to get caught with a lot of unfinished lambs next October.

Fodder budget

I have just about enough fodder for next winter, but only just about. I have closed up some paddocks around the farm to get some extra bales of haylage made. I will also buy in extra straw which I find is quite handy for stretching out silage.

I am quite happy with the overall quality of my silage. It looks good, but I won't really know what the story is until I get it analysed next winter.

I will top any fields where the grass has gone a bit stemmy. I use a 9ft disc mower which gives a cleaner cut when topping, enabling a fresher, more palatable regrowth. I have found that the flail mower tends to beat the grass down rather than cut it, which defeats the benefits of topping grass.

I am hoping to get to some sheep farm walks over the summer. Of course, the Irish Grassland Association's annual sheep conference and farm walk on Tuesday, July 16 in Athlone is something which shouldn't be missed.

I have never gone to a farm walk and not come home the better from it. You always come home refreshed, with your morale and enthusiasm a bit higher.

John Fagan farms at Gartlanstown, Co Westmeath. Email:

Irish Independent