Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Sheep: Improved weather helped raise the lambing siege

This year's lambing season is almost finished. Getty Images.
This year's lambing season is almost finished. Getty Images.

Tom Staunton

The lambing season is finally coming to a close. It had more than a few ups and downs, starting off with persistent rain, which made life much more difficult for feeding and lambing the ewes outside.

Fields that we consider dry let us down for the first time that I can remember. After the incessant rainfall left us there were a dry few weeks which made life and lambing much easier.

The ewes that lambed indoors could be let out, ewes lambing outdoors had comfort, lambs thrived and fertiliser could be applied to grazing ground.

Overall the lambing was similar to other years. Mortality is running at about 7-8pc. The usual problems are occurring, which meant this number rose higher than I would have liked.

The fox visited a few nights, leaving two lambs dead. Still births also added to this number. This occurred in ewes of all ages with no pattern to be seen.

A few lambs born were found without breaking the membrane sack and also a few cases of mastitis and in the last week three cases of watery mouth. Of the lambs that got the watery mouth, two made full recovery and one passed away.

I treated the lambs with a strong probiotic and put them under an infrared lamp. The lambs that got watery mouth were born outside and the ewes nor the lambs never saw a shed. There is always a reason for these things to happen.

One of the lambs with watery mouth was born to a ewe that only had milk on in one teat! That explained that the lamb got little or no colostrum in his first 24 hours. The ewe must have escaped the checks last year for culling. However, indoors I haven't had a single case of watery mouth.

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The fostering crates were busy this spring. Many triplet lambs were adopted successfully. I also had a few lambs that got away from the ewes at birth and the ewe wasn't too willing to take them back. They also saw the fostering crate and over time accepted the lambs.


Prolapse is also something that raises its head, especially in ewes carrying triplets.

If I see a ewe starting to push early on and is not a problem at that stage I put a harness on them straight away. I found the harnesses worked well this year. It is unclear what the actual cause of the prolapse is.

There are a lot of theories from many people and I think some more work identifying the causes should be carried out as it is a common problem throughout the country. From my experience I wonder if it is feed related, genetic or a combination of several factors.

It was great to get to see some lambs off the new Bluefaced Leicester and Lanark Blackface rams. I'm quite happy with the Mule lambs - lamb size was good and ewes lambed down with a good supply of milk.

I increased the soyabean meal level for the last few weeks of pregnancy to help with lamb growth and with colostrum and milk production. This seemed to work quite well.

Ewes are still getting fed the same concentrate ration as grass supply on the farm is tight. Urea was applied on some saved ground at a rate of half a bag per acre. I hope this ground starts to grow well so I can get more ewes off feed.

Tom Staunton farms at Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

Indo Farming