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Saturday 20 October 2018

How to get into the zone for the challenges of this lambing season

Lambing season - don't leave yourself isolated or fatigued
Lambing season - don't leave yourself isolated or fatigued
John Fagan

John Fagan

Lambing season is about to take off so you have to get into the zone and snap out of the winter doziness.

Scanning went well but it's worth nothing unless the lambs appear on the ground. Alive. That is why preparation is key. All the twin-bearing ewes are now getting 0.5kgs of a 20pc soya-based ration and the triplets are getting 0.75kgs.

I feed a high-soya ration because this ensures that the ewes have loads of milk at lambing. It's worth checking the ingredients of your ration - soya needs to be second or third on the list as this indicates the level of soya in the mix.

If it's well down the list, then you need to change your ration. Fail to feed soya to your ewes and then prepare to fail.

The ingredients for the ewe ration I got from Quinns in Baltinglass are: rolled barley, soya bean meal, whole oats, beet pulp nuts, molasses and sheep minerals. Also, you need to group together shy feeders.

Some ewes are shy feeders and can be bullied by other ewes so you need to be aware of this and act quickly to ensure that they are getting their fair share.

I mineral-bolused and fluke and worm-dosed all the in-lamb ewes at the end of January.

I don't normally mineral-bolus the sheep but other farmers around the country who do it told me they have found it worthwhile. I am always willing to try different things. The bolus, by Animax, consists of iodine, selenium and cobalt, which releases slowly over six months.

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Anything that improves the health of the ewe has knock-on effects for the lamb and therefore it is worthwhile. I expect to see results, and I expect it to make lambing-time easier as you are dealing with less problems and healthier sheep.

I'll give the ewes their Covexin 10 this week. I would normally have done this earlier but last year I delayed it and it had the benefit that I did not lose one lamb with clostridial problems last summer.

Research has shown that the benefits of clostridial vaccines passing immunity to the lamb via her colostrum dissipates as the lambing goes on, so the closer to lambing you give it, the more antibodies the lamb receives at birth.

It's also time to focus on grass. I bought urea, expensive as it is, and I intend to get it out (one bag per acre) on the closed-off fields as soon as the weather permits.

Slurry is also being got out, albeit at a slow pace with the stop-start nature of the weather we have, but I aim to have it all out over the coming week, weather permitting.

I have done up a little kitchen on the farm for lambing time. You need to be able to readily put your hand on anything you need, so it's no harm making a list. Lambing gel, gloves, iodine, tail rings, lamb stomach tubes and cow colostrum (frozen). You need to chat to your vet for any antibiotics that might be needed.

For prolapsed ewes, I use a nylon harness which is really effective and easy on the ewe. Have your pet lamb feeder ready to roll and have Lamlac and pet lamb bottles ready to go. Having all this stuff to hand just makes life easier.

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At lambing time it's next to impossible to manage things on your own. Luckily, I have a neighbour helping me out this year. I didn't get an Ag-college student, I thought I wouldn't need one so I took myself off the list but I am regretting this now.

I also get foreign students who stay with my parents and they really get a lot from the experience of living here on a farm in Ireland. For them it's a holiday! They love the pet lambs.

Don't leave yourself isolated and fatigued - it's not worth it.

Preparation for lambing has many aspects - the ewe, grass, facilities and labour.

Neglect any of these and you're in for a tough few weeks, but if you have everything ready, you are in for a rewarding experience.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath


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