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John Large: We should be able to start selling lambs every two weeks

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Ewes and lambs. Photo: Roger Jones

Ewes and lambs. Photo: Roger Jones

Ewes and lambs. Photo: Roger Jones

We now have all the lambs weaned and divided into groups according to weight and how near they are to slaughter. The heaviest lambs are getting 250g of lamb nuts fed onto the grass using the quad and snacker. These lambs are from 38kg upwards.

We are using a 14pc lamb finisher nut, nothing fancy, all we need is energy in the form of cereals and pulp. We have only started to feed meal for the last week, so after a couple of weeks we should be able to sell lambs every two weeks. We have another group of lambs on grass only and as the ones on meal move onto the factory, we will top up that group again with the best of lambs on grass only.

Grass growth is slow; we are not getting a lot of rain, just enough that fields are not burning up. We will spread some fertiliser before the end of August, no point in adding to the winter by not having build up grass for November and December.

We have our ewe lambs picked off. We have 150 this year and, as usual, they are of five different breeds. We must keep 10pc of lambs born from each ram used in the flock. This year they are a very uniform bunch in size and weight.

These ewe lambs were picked using information collected at lambing time on their mother’s ability to lamb by herself, and on the basis she had plenty of milk and had two hardy lambs. The lambs’ 40-day and weaning weight is used to provide more information that will help with selection. By collecting this information, you can improve the flock.

By not keeping replacements from ewes that underperform, undesirable traits such as lambing difficulty, poor milking ability, pendulous teats, ewes that prolapse and foot rot we can avoid traits we do not want, so by not selecting replacements from ewes with these traits you will improve your flock.

We try to keep four and five-star where possible. These ewe lambs are in their own group getting good grass. We will go through them a few times before November and pick off any that do not perform well.

We dose all lambs with a mineral dose containing cobalt, iodine, selenium and copper. As our farm is deficient in cobalt, it is important to dose lambs regularly, every month with Cobalt B12. Cobalt is required by sheep for the synthesis of vitamin B12 in the rumen. Symptoms of deficiency include loss of condition, poor fleece quality, ears become dry and scaly, loss of appetite, runny eyes with tear staining on the face and raised worm count.

Sheep have an extremely limited capacity to store vitamin B12. This means that they need continuous supply of cobalt to avoid deficiency.

The simplest way of ensuring sheep have this continuous supply is through their diet. Interestingly, pasture species will determine cobalt concentration, with clover having higher cobalt levels than ryegrass species. Boluses can be the ideal solution for cobalt deficiency, slowly releasing the minerals over a longer period of time. The slow release of cobalt is ideal for sheep.

Giving a Cobalt drench is favoured by most farmers. Cobalt in drench form is the cheapest method of supplementing the mineral but unfortunately will only last a maximum of three weeks.

Obviously this will increase the work load; using an oral drench has huge financial benefit for weaned lambs that you only intend to keep for a few months.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

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