A new year has started again. All the ewes are now scanned with a conception rate to AI of 75pc, which is slightly higher than last year. We will lamb 453 ewes from 605 in one week. The mature ewes scanned at 1.83/ewe and the hoggets at 1.53pc.
We have 95 sets of triplets, all of which are on 0.5kg of a citrus pulp, rolled barley and whole barely mixture. This is costing €170/t, as I bought the barley at harvest time and the citrus pulp is bought forward.
The twin ewes will start getting fed this week at a rate of 0.25kg, building up to 1kg in seven weeks' time at lambing. This may seem high but with so many ewes lambing together, we need strong lambs and ewes with plenty of milk. This reduces labour requirements and lambs are strong enough to go out quickly.
After scanning, all the ewes were divided into groups based on scan results and condition score. They all received a dose for fluke -- we used Flukiver.
The ewe lambs are still on grass. They will be scanned in the next few weeks, along with any ewes that showed up empty last time. We are feeding grass to all these in blocks of 50m2, which gives them enough for two days.
We use electrified sheep netting to divide the grass. They come in 50m rolls, which are easy to move. The sheep are not allowed back onto where they have grazed so this should help the re-growth.
The grass they are now eating is Italian ryegrass which will be cut for haylage in late May. We should have enough grass to last until the middle of next month. Then they'll go onto the last of the rape and stubble turnips. This is what was left after the finishing lambs. Due to the weather, most of the rape has been lost to hard frost and the pigeons. The turnips have survived so we were lucky to have sowed a mixture of both.
There has been very little growth of grass on fields closed up early. We now plan to spread slurry when the weather gets milder. We also bought Granular Urea at €390/t. This will not be spread until the end of next month when, hopefully, the soil temperature will have improved and we will get a good response. With prices so high and very little grass cover, I can see no reason to spread any earlier.
The new grass fields look the best now. So we plan to reseed another 20ac next year, using the same method of under- sowing the grass with a catch crop.
Other jobs to do now are repairs to fences, mostly replacing broken stakes and strainers. There are also some water troughs to replace due to frost damage. There's also the continuous job of footbathing ewes and picking off thin ones for a little extra meal feeding.
We try to put the lame ewes in the same pen to stop the spread of footrot. We use hydrated lime by the feed rail. Now that we are feeding meal, it is taking more straw to keep the bed dry. We will clean out all the pens two weeks before lambing.
John Large is a sheep farmer from Gortnahoe, Thurles, Co Tipperary