Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Scan reveals 1.87 lambs per ewe despite saving on expensive bolus

Christmas-born lambs doing well out on good grass for Willie and David Grothier, Kilgraney, Co Carlow. David is feeding 1lb/hd of Red Mills sheep nuts. Photo: Roger Jones.
Christmas-born lambs doing well out on good grass for Willie and David Grothier, Kilgraney, Co Carlow. David is feeding 1lb/hd of Red Mills sheep nuts. Photo: Roger Jones.
John Fagan

John Fagan

Now that the holidays are over and I have failed miserably to keep any of my New Year's resolutions, it's time to get things in place for lambing in 2014.

The flock has scanned very well at 1.87 lambs/ewe so it's game on for March 1. I was pleased with the scan and it is fairly consistent with other years, which is interesting as this year I didn't bother with any expensive mineral boluses or blocks (which are supposed to do wondrous things for ewes prior to going to the ram).

I just gave them a cheap 30c/per head mineral dose before mating, and perhaps it wasn't even necessary to do that, but I am a sucker for marketing.

Since scanning I have been busy separating, vaccinating, foot-bathing and housing my ewes. I house some of my ewes on cattle slats which are bedded down with a thick mat of straw.

This stops the sheep from putting their feet through the gaps and it works really well, giving a dual purpose to my shed. My sheep are generally all in good condition with the odd thin or lame one, which will need extra care and feed.

The good weather in the back end of the year has helped the flock and made life a lot easier. When I think back to last year, I had my whole flock housed for nearly two months at this stage, and by the time lambing started in March I was exhausted.

I am trying a new feed ration this year. It is a high-protein ration made up of 24pc soya, 18pc rolled barley, 17pc ground maize, 15pc beet pulp nuts, 11pc rape pellets, 10pc soya hulls, 3pc molasses and 2pc minerals.

A friend of mine, John Kelly from Baltinglass, has been using this ration formulated with Teagasc sheep specialist Dr Tim Keady, and they have found it excellent.

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Overall it works out as a 21pc protein ration, which is higher than the ones you generally buy from your merchant. The benefits of this are that it ensures not only good development of the lamb but also the adequate production of colostrum by the ewe at birth, which is vital for ensuring a good start for a new-born lamb.

This lack of colostrum was very apparent to me last year in the conditions that we had. I found that I lost a lot of lambs due to silly, preventable things such as watery mouth which could have been due to a lack of adequate colostrum at birth.

I will gradually build up the ewes carrying doubles to 0.5kg of this ration per day and the triplets will get anything from 0.8-1kg per day in the run-up to lambing.

While the focus at this time of year is generally on the ewes, it is important not to forget about the rams. I will give them a booster shot of Covexin 8, a check on their feet and a footbath.

I am also trying out high energy feed blocks, something that I have never really tried before. But the idea of being able to leave the block with them and not have to go out with bags of meal daily is appealing. At this time of year, I just don't get time and they can be neglected. Uniblock and Tubby are both doing a good block.

Each year I take on a number of students from Ballyhaise Agricultural College and UCD and I find them very helpful. It is great to have an extra pair of hands around the place. They're company and generally make lambing time quite enjoyable. However, one thing I am laying down the law with this year is weekends. Farming, as many of us know, is not Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, so disappearing at weekends and St Patrick's Day when the pressure is on won't be part of the arrangement this year.

I think for the student work experience is invaluable training. It allows a student hands-on experience of a commercial farm and they can gain their own perspective on how things work.

They get to see farmers, warts and all so to speak, and I like being open with them, sharing with them the things that I find work for my farm, and the things that don't.

I would recommend farmers to take them on. Just make sure all your farm safety is in order as quirky things you might take for granted might just catch someone else unawares.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath. Email:

Irish Independent

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