Scanning rates are all up on last year apart from ewe lambs

Michael Duffy is on target for higher lambing rates this spring

Michael Duffy feeding the sheep on his farm in Donegal.
Michael Duffy feeding the sheep on his farm in Donegal.

John Cannon

The scanning results for the ewes mated in 2015 on Michael Duffy's farm in Fanad in Donegal mixed the good with the disappointing.

"I am very happy with the scan results for the ewe flock but a bit disappointed with the ewe lambs," says Michael who farms at Kerrykeel, over 30km north of Letterkenny.

"However with over 600 lambs scanned I cannot complain".

The results show 1.98 lambs per ewe mated or 13 lambs more per 100 ewes mated than in 2015.

The percentage of twins is similar to 2015 but the numbers of barren and single ewes scanned are each down by over 3pc while the number of triplet bearing ewes is up by a corresponding 6pc.

Research by Teagasc shows that scans/litter size is linked to body condition scores (BCS) at mating. The target BCS is 3.5 at mating.

The ewe lamb flock scanned at 1.05 lambs per ewe lamb mated which was 0.28 down on the 2015 scan.

The number of empty ewe lambs is up from 6.6pc to 16.8pc but the number of doubles scanned is down by almost 50pc to 21.67pc.

Get the latest news from the Farming Independent team 3 times a week.

Michael has no explanation for this reduction.

"I have ewe lambs from three different sources this year (home born and purchased from two flocks) but I did not have a chance yet to check if there was any differences between the three sources".

Teagasc research shows that the onset of puberty in ewe lambs is closely related to body weight and age at mating with a minimum target of 45kg in September being the bottom line.

In 2015 Michael's ewe lambs averaged 51kg on October 26 (range 48kg to 59kg) with rams let out on October 28.


Michael fed 0.27kg of barley per ewe since housing to prevent the slip in body condition that occurred in 2015.

"This has worked well in that I am very happy with body condition of the flock at present. At the same time there is no ewe getting over fat."

He fed the ewe lamb replacements 0.27kg of a 50:50 mixture of barley and an 18pc CP lamb finishing nut.

He also felt that as the ewe lambs were still growing they would benefit from the extra protein.

The flock has been housed for the last six weeks and were given their third Fluke dose since September (nitroxynil) last week.

They will also be foot bathed and given a cobalt dose.

When they are going up the race he will also use the TGM scanner to record them as carrying twins/ triplets etc for his database as he did not get this task done when they were being pregnancy scanned.

The next task will be the clostridial vaccine in mid-February but he is also considering giving a mineral drench to 30-50pc of the flock about six weeks before lambing.

Purchased Store Lambs

Store lamb purchases ceased in mid-January in order to free him up in mid-March to devote his full attention to lambing. He still has 750 store lambs on hand from the 1,250 he purchased. These lambs are being given a cobalt drench every two weeks.

Grassland Management

There has been a good response to closing off fields in October and November 2015.

It is obvious that the present grass cover is closely related to closing dates with fields closed before mid-November having very healthy covers.

The closing off pattern is based on the targets laid out by Philip Creighton, Teagasc Athenry in order to have an adequate grass cover for a mid-March lambing flock.

Ewes should be turned out to a minimum grass height of 6.5cm post lambing. "The Ballymagahey block (24ac) has similar grass heights but the Carland block (40ac) which has much heavier land will have very little grass until early May," says Michael.

He plans to walk the farm on a weekly basis in 2016 and measure the grass covers in order to improve his grassland management and lamb performance.

John Cannon is a Teagasc business and technology advisor based in Letterkenny

Indo Farming

For Stories Like This and More
Download the Free Farming Independent App