Farm Ireland

Monday 25 June 2018

Sheep: Changing weather heightens the threat from worms

Tom Staunton plans to use a Levamisole wormer on his flock. Stock Photo.
Tom Staunton plans to use a Levamisole wormer on his flock. Stock Photo.

Tom Staunton

The recent improvement in weather is welcomed with open arms. We were finding it difficult with the wet and cold weather to have enough grass for the ewes and lambs.

Grass growth was non-existent on the farm but this has started to improve. The fields that were saved had been eaten and concentrate feed had to be fed to ewes to meet their nutritional demands.

I prioritised the ewes with twins as they have a greater demand than the ewes with single lambs to keep the twin lambs growing well. I lamb most of the flock outdoors. This has advantages and disadvantages as I have mentioned before, but one disadvantage is that it is difficult to have grass for the ewes and lambs in spring.

The difficult weather conditions for lambing and this lack of grass are making me think lambing indoors is something I should consider. I will think about it over the next few weeks and see if building a shed or converting a shed is a viable option.

I spread nitrogen fertiliser again last week on fields that are saved. Soil tests were taken on the farm recently too.

In theory I probably should have waited for the results of this to see what deficiencies are on the farm and whether I need to spread lime, P and K.

But I couldn't wait for the results as I needed to help get grass growing. I will use the soil results when I get them to fix the deficiencies that are still there.

There are still a few ewe lambs left to lamb. The Lanark ewe lambs were born the end of March and well into April 2015.

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They are just a year old. Those that have lambed so far have gone very well. They lambed down good strong lambs and have plenty of milk for them.

The increase in lamb output from the flock is welcome extra income coming from sheep that wouldn't usually lamb until their second year. It can be seen as improved farm efficiency. It is a system that I would recommend people to try, but only some ewe lambs for the first time to see if it suits their farm and system.

Not all ewe lambs are going to be suitable for this system either. I picked the strongest of the ewe lambs for this. It is important to get feeding right and to make sure that the lambs grow well before mating, during pregnancy and after weaning.

After weaning the lambs should be assessed and given some extra attention to make sure they recover and grow on to meet their mature weight for the next mating.

All the Bluefaced Leicester lambs are grazing on a reseeded field. I have also started to creep feed them because of the tight grass supplies.

Most of these lambs are the oldest lambs on the farm and will be the first to get a dose for both worms and trace elements in the next week.

I will more than likely use a Levamisole wormer, which works against a broad spectrum of parasites including nematodirus, lungworms and the strongyle species.

Nematodirus is the worm I'd be most worried about, especially with the weather we are having. An increase in temperatures following a colder spell gives nematodirus eggs an opportunity to hatch into larvae.

This is exactly what we've had over the past two weeks and lambs that are beginning to consume large quantities of grass are most at risk. A watery yellow-green scour and poor thrive is a good indicator of nematodirus being present.

The growth rates of the Bluefaced Leicester lambs have been quite good considering the year.

They were weighed last week and are averaging 345g weight gain per day, with some lambs higher and one or two lambs that got setbacks bringing the average down a little.

Finally, I'd like to congratulate John Fagan on RTE's Big Week on the Farm. He portrayed farming in a very positive manner and showed that farming is a fine way of life.

I liked his Mules and the high lambing percentage he's getting from them.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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