Farm Ireland

Friday 20 April 2018

Long lambing season stretches into summer as weather finally turns

Tom Staunton

The arrival of warm weather is hugely welcome on our farm, as is the return of two sons who have finished college for the summer.

The old saying that 'many hands make light work' was borne out when we tackled the shearing last week. The dry hoggetts, rams and mule ewes have been shorn. The Blackface mountain ewes will not be shorn for another two weeks.

The prices quoted in the west for wool at the moment are €1.10/kg for arable, €0.75/kg for crossbred and €0.25/kg for Blackface. Contract shearers are charging between €2.00 and €2.50/ewe. Not much, if any, profit can be made from the wool if a contract shearer is used but it is a job that must be done.

Over the past number of weeks, we have had some cases of mastitis in our ewes. This infection of the mammary gland is painful and farmers should be vigilant when checking their stock as a ewe could easily be lost if left untreated.


The ewes that were detected were lame and slow to follow the rest of the flock and also showed signs of swelling.

Once detected, the ewes were brought in and treated with antibiotics for a number of days until the symptoms diminished.

The Beltex cross lambs were weighed last week. There were many lambs in the 30-40kg bracket.

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The strongest of these lambs will hopefully reach a target weight of 42 to 43kg over the next week or 10 days. The lambs must have sufficient body cover as well as weight to meet factory requirements.

The target weight for drafting lambs is a little lighter than last year. This is because the factories are not paying to the same weights as last year and are now paying to a maximum weight of 20.5kg per lamb.

It is important that the lambs are weighed regularly to ensure that they meet the requirements and they are not too heavy.

It does not make sense to continue feeding lambs once they meet their target weight. Lambs that are still being fed concentrate at this weight are putting an increased cost on the farm. A 42kg lamb that kills out at 48pc will supply a carcass of 20.16kg. The target weight will increase later in the year as the kill-out percentage will more than likely decline. Once I sell my first batch of lambs I will have a more exact idea of how well they are killing out.


All the Bluefaced Leicester lambs have been weighed for the second time for Lambplus records and the information uploaded onto the Sheep Ireland website. This includes all parental information, birth weights, six-week weight and lambing difficulties.

The oldest of the pedigree lambs have also been weaned. I left some ewes with younger lambs with the group of lambs that were weaned, as I find this reduces the stress on the lambs.

I am quite happy with the way the Bluefaced Leicester lambs have thrived this year, considering the difficult weather and grazing conditions that were present. The lambs have grown at a rate of 320-390g/day.

I use weaning as a time to help me select my replacements and also use the Lambplus information.

Lambs with the greatest growth rates are selected, which indirectly selects for milk production too.

The lambs that are strongest at weaning are so mainly because of their mother's milk production. The ewes are now on a bare pasture to help them dry up.

Any ewes that suffered problems such as prolapse or did not rear lambs well have been marked and will be sold in due course, perhaps with the first draft of Beltex cross lambs.

The silage ground has been taken up for a number of weeks now and will be cut later this year than usual.

The fields were spread with an additional two bags of CAN per acre. Weather permitting, I intend to cut some of the grass as hay.

Not many lambs are born in June, but last week saw the arrival of four newborns.

They were born to ewes that had scanned empty but the ewes were kept and given a chance because they were young.

These lambs don't have the difficult weather conditions to contend with that we had back in February.

It feels like an awful long lambing season when I think back to those days now.

Tom Staunton farms 350 ewes in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo. Email:

Irish Independent