Obesity concerns means fat camp for some ewes

All the big jobs of the summer are now over and John Fagan can concentrate on his sheep.
All the big jobs of the summer are now over and John Fagan can concentrate on his sheep.
John Fagan

John Fagan

With the silage and haylage made, shearing done and lambs weaned, all the big jobs of the summer are now over. All that remains to be done is topping which I should have finished off this week.

I have topped my fields a bit tighter as I have found that if you don't go tight enough you end up having to do it again. So the fields are practically mowed and the ewes and cattle eat up any excess grass lying on the ground.

This will ensure quality grazing for the sheep and cattle later on in the summer.

Any fields that were too heavy and still quite leafy I made into haylage which will come in handy next spring. I find that haylage is better than hay as ewes tend to eat up all the haylage whereas there can be a lot of wastage with hay. My lambs are thriving really well. I got just under a quarter of them drafted prior to weaning and the rest aren't too far behind them.

As the price is sliding I will go a bit higher in the live weights to 42kg plus, anything less you are going to be dropping below the all important €110/hd mark.

Lameness is well under control as I have been sticking to a once-a-month routine of foot-bathing the entire flock in a solution of zinc sulphate.

I have invested heavily in foot-bathing facilities around the farm and it is working.

I recently got a hydrometer, which sounds more complicated than it actually is, but this allows me to sample the water in the bath to see how much zinc is present in the water. It's essential for the solution to be between 5-10pc to work effectively.

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I hear of a lot of people foot-bathing their sheep who find that it is not working. There is a possibility that there may not actually be enough Zinc in the water and the hydrometer will be able to tell you this. Contact you local lab if you want to get a hydrometer calibrated for zinc sulphate, I am sure that they will help you out. They cost about €15.

As I have just weaned, I have put all the ewes on a relatively bare field to dry them off as quickly as possible and avoid any cases of mastitis. I will keep them here for about 10-12 days.

An unusual problem that I have encountered this year is ewes getting stuck on their backs post shearing.

The cause of this is obesity, and I am actually concerned that some of my ewes are over fat and will need to be thinned down prior to breeding next October.


It's a problem I will address once they have dried off when I will condition score the entire flock. Thinner ladies will want to get better grass with the larger ones going to fat camp.

After the lambs settle down after the stress of weaning I'll separate the ewe and ram lambs.

While drafting I noticed that some of them were showing signs of cobalt deficiency with crusty scabs forming on their ears. To address this I give them a cobalt bolus which lasts about six weeks.

I find it is the cheapest and most effective way to address the problem. They will then go out to after grass and continue their progress.

The Texel and Suffolk ewe lambs will be put to one side as each year I sell them off as replacements.

Farmers find they make good ewes as their mothers are mules so they combine the best qualities of both breeds. The good mothering and milk production of the mule is combined with the meat quality attributes of the Suffolk and Texel.

I carried out a faecal egg count on my lambs and I don't have a problem with wormer resistance, which is a relief.

In the meantime it is nice to be able to enjoy the good weather and farm safely.

With a lot of things going on farms these days people can be rushing around getting stressed about getting lambs to the factories, getting the hay and silage made or the shearing done, it is important to remember that when God made time he made lots of it and when people find themselves under pressure accidents can happen.

So farm safely.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

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