Sheep: Growth spurt means grass management is our next priority

Just last month ewes were being fed beet fodder. File photo: Jennifer O'Sullivan
Just last month ewes were being fed beet fodder. File photo: Jennifer O'Sullivan
John Large

John Large

It is hard to believe that this time last month we were putting out beet for the ewes.

Fast forward a few weeks and we now have some paddocks cut for silage.

We had planned to graze them but they had gone too strong, so we opted for the next best option to cut and bale the grass. It means the paddocks will be back into the rotation quickly while we are also collecting good quality silage for next winter.

When grass grows quickly it can be a difficult crop to manage, so it helps to divide paddocks into areas that are cleared out in four days and keep the number of groups of animals to a minimum.

So instead of two groups of 100 ewes with lambs, put them together and you will utilise what grass you have better and also grow more grass. This way we can manage our grass better and get more from it when it is growing rapidly.

All the lambs have been dosed with either a white or a yellow drench. The early March lambs were all weighed the same day, the singles average daily weight gain was 330gms per day with the lambs born as twins or triplets gaining 280gm per day.

We are definitely back on other years, which was caused by the cold weather in April and a shortage of grass when ewes should be milking at their peak.

Since weighing and with a change in the weather, lambs seem to be thriving better and can be seen playing and sleeping in the sunshine. There are also more of them going through the creep gates giving them access to the best grass.

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The next weighing at weaning will tell whether we have made up what we lost in their first 40 days or not.

We should have some singles to sell at weaning but very little of the multiples. The lambs will all be dosed again next week using Cydectin and we have Clik applied to prevent fly strike. The ewes will be dagged and also get Clik as they will not be shorn until late July.

The hogget ewes rearing lambs are in two groups. The singles are now on grass only and are grazing with cattle. They have been dosed for worms and coccidiosis and are thriving very well.


The hoggets rearing twins and some late ewes with twin lambs are on good grass with the lambs eating 250gms of creep per day.

This group have been causing the most problems with a few mothers getting mastitis. We did not lose any of them but after antibiotic treatment they are now on the cull ewe list as they will only have milk in one side of the udder.

The lambs in this group first got coccidiosis, or so we thought, but after treatment some of them still had dirty tail-ends, so we dosed for nematodirus and all dried up in the next few days.

Then they got orf which probably caused some of the mastitis in their mothers. We cured the orf by spraying a bacterial product onto the sores on their mouths.

After two treatments most have cleared up. Hopefully they will settle down now and thrive on.

They are very good to eat meal, we put in two extra feeders so most can eat at the same time. We just give the meal in the morning and all is gone in a few hours.

We have dosed all the year old ewes rearing lambs for worms as they are still growing and under pressure rearing lambs.

They will be dosed again when their lambs are due their next dose.

The price of new season lamb is back 50c/kg on this time last year, which works out at €10/hd on a 20kg carcase.

Sterling is also stronger which will not help our exports to France, so let's hope our new minister can follow through with his announcement of funding which could amount to €10 per ewe that would help pay a few extra bills from this spring.

I just hope there is not a maximum number of ewes that will be paid per flock. I cannot understand why the bigger flocks are penalised for their size.

The other worry I would have is ensuring they do not to make qualification for payment over complicated, which would cost money and extra work in order to get paid. Most sheep farmers are good stock-men and do not need any more extra paperwork.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary

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