Maintenance tasks have kept us ticking over

Ewes have been housed since mid-December. File photo.
Ewes have been housed since mid-December. File photo.
John Large

John Large

With all ewes housed since mid December our days are kept busy feeding stock and getting any maintenance jobs done about the yard. We replaced most of the uprights holding the feed rail in one shed. The original ones had become weak and the feed rail was starting to fall over.

The old uprights were set into the concrete floor. This time we set 10 inch sleeves in the concrete and inserted the upright into the sleeve, hopefully if any have to be replaced in the future the job should be a lot easier and there will be no long hours with a kango-hammer. We also replaced some water drinkers that had seen out their life.

Our big problem was the small drinkers were not able to stop the water flow when full so we always had one overflowing somewhere.

This year we put in a header tank in each shed. So now water from the pump goes directly into a tank fixed about 12 feet off the ground and the water is gravity fed to the drinkers in each pen. This system seems to be working very well, maybe when all ewes are on meal the availability of water could become an inconvenience but we could simply go back to the old system for a few hours each day.

The next job is our lighting which needs upgrading after nearly 25 years. With a good face-lift it should work well for another 20 years.

We scanned our ewes just before Christmas. All ewes were scanned, we have 55 that are either empty or in lamb but very late. These will be scanned again with the ewe lambs by the end of January.

These ewes are on rented grass with the dry ewe lambs. The quality of this grass is not very good but they have plenty of acres for what sheep are there. There is no fence for sheep on this ground so we are fencing it into sections using electric netting, giving them enough to eat for five days at a time.

The scan results for what was in lamb was very good with the average scan high 1.90 lambs per ewe.

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As usual we have too many triplets at 17pc, not enough twins at 55pc and happy enough with the singles at 28pc. They are all divided by their scan results and body condition with the triplets getting 0.3kg of meal since January 1.

All ewes are being fed hay since housed. This year we chopped some of the hay by leaving half the blades up when baling. This makes feeding with the straw blower a lot easier, no blockages at the spout and no broken shear bolts.

All ewes were dosed for fluke two weeks after housing, one lot, which were grazed in the wettest part of the farm were starting to lose condition but since being dosed have improved. The others probably didn't need to be dosed at all, but you know what they say - hindsight is a great thing.

As for what lambs are left to be sold they are on the Fodder Rape, which grew very well in the mild autumn and I was looking forward to finishing them off quickly and cheaply.

But Mother Nature had a different idea - rain, clay and sheep are not a good mix. We even took them off the field and feed them silage and meal for the worst week. They are now back on the rape getting 0.5kg of meal made up of barley, soya hulls with a small bit of soyabean meal, they have access to excellent round bale silage. We allocated them enough rape for two days at a time.

We'll be weighing them shortly as some are to be sold next Monday and hopefully all will be gone by early February.

I know this is only a small problem with the weather in comparison to what we hear and see on TV and from other media reports.

Some of our land flooded but after five days the water has flowed off once the river could cope. So the most important aspect of drainage is the outlet. On our farm by keeping the river free of blockages from fallen bushes or the banks slipping in, this keeps the water flowing which will keep the floor of the river free of silt.

I just hope for those people under pressure from these floods that they do not end up with another report from a government agency and no work done on the fundamental problem.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary

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