Lambing 2015 is now in full swing. It began with the pedigree Bluefaced Leicester ewes on February 20, a few days before their predicted due date. All of these ewes were AI'd on the same day, but there was a week-long period of lambing for the Blues.
I like to lamb the Bluefaced Leicester ewes at the beginning of the season, just before the main flock. This gives my help and I time to have everything organised for the main Blackface lambing flock.
The Bluefaced Leicesters are all lambed indoors. They brought some surprises this year too, with a set of quadruplets born when I was only expecting three. These four lambs are all alive and kicking, with two lambs left on the ewe and two were removed and placed on the automatic lamb feeder.
All the Blue lambs are recorded at birth for Lambplus. Birth weights, ease of lambing etc are recorded and submitted to Sheep Ireland for evaluation.
The automatic lamb feeder is currently nursing six lambs, which is quite a few less compared to this time last year. We managed to adopt some of the extra triplets onto other ewes on the farm. The feeder is very useful once the lambs are sucking. It saves time and other jobs take priority. It does take time with some lambs to get them sucking, but once they master the art they don't have to be shown again.
I always keep the feeder full as to avoid lambs getting hungry and then sickening themselves with milk. I am using Shine milk replacer this year, which is a milk replacer based on ewes milk and it is working well. It is important to keep the feeder cleaned. The feeder and teats are washed out regularly to avoid disease build up.
The weather hasn't been too kind to us since the ewes have begun lambing, which has forced me to keep the Bluefaced Leicester lambs indoors for a couple of weeks. This has backfired on me in the past, as disease and scour is a new challenge that replaces the challenge of the cold, wet and wind of outdoors. As this has caused problems before I made some changes to the system. The probiotic environmental spray (Dominate) that I am using is working a treat so far and is used when I am topping up or changing bedding. Hygiene is key in an indoor lambing situation as once a disease starts it often is difficult to stop.
The Blackface ewes that were AI'd have all lambed. The triplets and couples were lambed indoors also. The singles were lambed in a field next to the lambing shed. This was useful to spot single ewes that were beginning to lamb so I could adopt some of the triplet lambs onto them. All of them have lambed down with a good supply of colostrum and milk. I am feeding an 18pc CP ewe and lamb nut, but I am also adding some extra soya bean meal to it.
I am reasonably happy the way things have worked with this bunch. It was all systems go for a few days as ewes were lambing around the clock. Most of them lambed at the weekend, which worked to my favour, as there was plenty of help around.
If I was to AI all of the ewes, I would need much bigger sheds and full-time help for a few weeks. The facilities we have just about managed the numbers of ewes that were lambing together.
A neighbour, who is a pedigree Texel breeder who had finished lambing, gave us some lambing pens which were invaluable and very much appreciated.
Once the lambs were hardy, they were let out into fields that have both grass and plenty of shelter. It is one job getting the lambs out alive but this is just the start, as making sure they have sucked and have gotten plenty of colostrum is the priority after this. I always spray the navels with iodine as opposed to dipping them, whether this is the right or wrong thing, I don't know. I find that it isn't causing me any problems, so I will continue with it.
Happy St Patrick's Day to all.
Tom Staunton is a sheep farmer from Tourmakeady, Co Mayo