The 2018 lambing season has presented new challenges
It has been a hectic few weeks with lambing in full swing. Lambing this year has been a new experience for me as it involved a batch of 160 ewes that had undergone AI, along with 50 ewes that were naturally mated, all lambing in the space of a week.
Preparation was key for this. With the ewes synchronised, we ensured that someone was in the shed at all times for a few days.
Unlike other parts, the weather was kind to us as we managed to get lambs out of the shed after 24 hours and some of the singles went out earlier. If there were harsh weather conditions I don't know how we would have coped for space. I am quite happy with the results so far. The repeats of the AI are yet to come, as are some ewe lambs that should start lambing in April.
With so many ewes lambing together, it made cross-fostering of lambs to other ewes much easier. I go with the wet adoption approach. If I have a triplet or spare lamb that a ewe can't mother, I wait for a single ewe to start lambing.
She is put in an individual lambing pen and once ready to lamb, I hold her down and cover the foster lamb in the lambing fluids. I introduce the foster lamb to the ewe first and then her own lamb. If the foster lamb is a day or two old, I tie his legs for five minutes. I do this as ewes can be clever enough and can sometimes smell the subterfuge. If they see the lamb getting up too quickly, they may reject it.
At the beginning of lambing, we had a few problem cases with ewes lambing early, but this cleared up pretty quick and we haven't looked back since.
The problem ewes were tagged and won't be kept. A few ewes escaped this system last year as I came across two that only had milk on one side. Perhaps they had single lambs last year and this issue went unnoticed. Having enough lambing pens was a worry for me, but a neighbour gave me some extra gate. Once a ewe left a lambing pen, the old straw was taken away and brushed out and then sprayed with a probiotic spray and fresh straw was added.
The lambing pens were sprayed daily to help prevent watery mouth and reduce infection risks.
Prolapse hasn't been an issue for us this year and ewes are in good condition with a good supply of milk going out of the shed.
As they leave the shed, ewes receive a fluke and worm dose and are put to the most sheltered fields where some grass has accumulated over the winter.
I am starting to notice a little bit of a response to the urea that was spread. The plan is that ewes go off meal when they go to grass. It is working so far, but I'm hoping growth picks up to keep grass ahead of the ewes. If not, ewes will have to start getting a meal mix again.
Silage supplies fortunately are just about right this year with not much to spare. I am quite happy with the meal mix that was used pre-lambing.
Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo.
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