Price volatility doesn't seem to add up
With nearly all lambs weaned, we have some booked into our local butcher for next week.
By now the early March lambs have been divided into three groups.
The heaviest lambs, all over 37kg are given the best after grass to make sure they get every chance of being sold in the next month.
The next lot are all ewe lambs from which we will pick our replacements with the remainder going to slaughter.
The ones we keep will be picked using their maternal trait stars from Sheep Ireland and we will also take their weight on the day and their visual appearance into account.
The third group are the lightest lambs from the main lambing group and include all the hogget's lambs.
We weaned these hoggets at the end of June and their lambs were about 12 weeks old at weaning.
The reason we decided to wean them earlier was to give their mothers more time before the next mating to put on weight and condition.
We still have 70 ewes that lambed in April to wean and these will be divided next week. Some culled ewes have been sold, with the remainder on good grass to be sold as they come fit.
We had a rethink about shearing and decided to shear all ewes in early July. The reasons were twofold: if shorn now we would not have to use any pour-on for flystrike, hopefully getting away with it until we give them their annual winter dip usually around September.
The other reason was to stop ewes going over on their backs. With ewes in better condition this summer, we have had a lot more ewes rolling over and getting stuck on their back this year.
The worst result is a dead ewe, next best is a ewe left with injuries from being attacked by grey crows and magpies.
With wool price now over €1.50 per kilo, at least shearing will leave a financial reward not like a few years ago when it was a loss-making task.
The grass seed, all sown nearly eight weeks ago due to the weather, has left us with three very different outcomes. One field is good enough that we are grazing with lambs but very little Typhon has grown.
The next field has plenty of Typhon, with the grass seed quite scarce. This field has heavy clay soil and was not impacted severely by the lack of rain.
The third field never got going, it is green now but very poor Typhon plants and very little grass.
All three fields were reseeded in the same fashion, all got lime and fertilizer, the only difference between the fields was soil type.
We will persevere with this last field until next Spring and assess then what action we will take and whether to reseed again.
We have two more paddocks to sow now and with plenty of rain this week we should get a good take in these. Reseeding is not cheap when all the costs are taken into account especially when the length of time the fields are out of production extends from six weeks to 10.
After the huge drop in lamb prices over the last three weeks it is at least a relief that the slide has stopped and some recovery in price has occurred.
I find it hard to understand why we are not in a stronger position than last year - with sterling so strong, not many lambs coming from Northern Ireland and our national ewe flock the same.
The big worry is if ewe numbers drop much lower our factories may not be in a position to tender for big contracts in the future. So severe price drops may not only hurt us farmers but could have consequences for the industry going forward.
With the introduction of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme to help stabilise our suckler herd, why not look into getting a ewe payment to do likewise for the sheep sector.
But whatever proposals are made to our Minister, we must make sure he does not try to cap the payment to a limited number of ewes.
John Large is a sheep farmer based in Co Tipperary
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