Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Poor weather has forced us to change our feeding strategy

Some lambs on the farm are getting scald
Some lambs on the farm are getting scald

Tom Staunton

Grass supplies are behind target for this time of year. This is on the back of a cold and wet few weeks. This has meant management practices on the farm have had to change to allow us to adapt to the conditions.

I am allowing some batches of lambs to creep and to graze ahead of the ewes. I have creep gates in place and it is a system that suits me at the moment as grass supply is tight. Lambs also have access to a fresh, leafy pasture which should also help thrive.

A coarse ration is also available to lambs. I started the lambs on a cooked ration with high levels of molasses to encourage them to eat. This is now changed and the ration is a non-cooked 16pc CP intensive lamb ration. I try to give lambs the best chance possible at a younger age as this is when they are most efficient at converting food into live-weight gain.

This last week I have dosed all the lambs that are old enough with a Levamisole wormer which works against a broad spectrum of parasites including Nematodirus, Lungworms and the Strongyle species.

An increase in temperatures following a colder spell of weather gives Nematodirus eggs an opportunity to hatch into larvae. Lambs are beginning to consume large quantities of grass and there is a risk that they will contract the parasite.

A watery yellow-green scour and lambs that aren't thriving that well are good indicators of Nematodirus being present. I usually don't let lambs get to this stage. If Nematodirus is given the opportunity it will effect lamb thrive and ultimately it will take lambs longer to be finished.

I try to rotate and change the type of wormer I use on the farm every year in order to prevent any build-up of resistance in worms. I dosed the younger ewes in the flock as they are more susceptible to worms than the older ewes. I also dosed all the lambs with a chelated mineral and vitamin drench.

I have found over the years that my farm is low in some trace elements, especially copper and cobalt and it is also high in molybdenum and aluminium which are antagonist minerals which interfere with the animal's uptake and ability to use copper and other trace elements.

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I find using the drench helps lamb thrive and prevents deficiencies. Grass analysis is a simple and cost effective way of checking the levels of both major minerals and trace elements in the sward. I found that it takes away all the guess work and I now know what to supplement with.

Some lambs on the farm are getting scald. It would be ideal if I had a facility to bring all the sheep in and footbath them, but this is not the case since the farm is fragmented.

Instead, I have to round up the batches and treat them accordingly with antibiotic foot sprays. This can be very time consuming job but is important because if lamb is lame it won't thrive as it should.

The zinc and biotin in the mineral drench should help the lambs develop strong and healthy skin and may help prevent scald and skin problems.

The fostered lambs that were reared on the automatic feeder have been weaned off milk replacer and were let out to a sheltered field. These lambs are eating a large quantity of meal.

When I started the lambs on meal I supplemented them with a probiotic and enzyme product to help rumen development. I think it has helped to get the lambs eating quicker and has helped prevent scouring. Meal feeding will continue with these lambs until slaughter.

The poorer weather has given me time to sort out applications for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and to look at the option of GLAS. I hope to have these completed soon as there are busy times ahead with showing sheep at local and national events.

Tom Staunton, farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo.


Indo Farming