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Tom Staunton: Why it’s important for thinner ewes to get the best grass

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Thriving: Sheep in Co Roscommon. Photo: Gerry Faughnan

Thriving: Sheep in Co Roscommon. Photo: Gerry Faughnan

Thriving: Sheep in Co Roscommon. Photo: Gerry Faughnan

We have started weaning some of the lambs. At this stage ewes and lambs are competing for the same grass, and ewes aren’t offering as much in terms of milk as they were.

At weaning we decided to cull any poor-performing ewes or old ones or those with mastitis etc. Any of these that are in good shape will be sold quickly.

Removing these will leave more grass for breeding ewes later in the summer.

At weaning we leave the lambs in the field that they were grazing for a few days and remove the ewes and put them to tighter grazing for 10 days to help them dry up.

Ewes will then get better grass to help build them up. The thinner ewes will get the best grass as it will take time for them to recover after rearing lambs during the spring. Often the poorer-conditioned ewes are those that reared two good lambs.

After a few days we group the lambs by size in different batches for ease of management. We have some aftergrass saved for these lambs which should help them thrive on.

It is a stressful time for both ewes and especially lambs, and minimising this stress as much as possible is important that lambs don’t get too much of a setback.

All lambs will get a cobalt drench at weaning to help with any deficiencies they might have. Our land is quite low in cobalt, and lambs require regular drenching to keep them thriving after weaning.

We will check lambs using faecal egg counts for worms and then drench if needed. Samples will be sent to Farmlab for testing and we will then decide what product to use, also based on looking at the lambs’ back ends

We usually go with a Moxidectin type product this time of year.

Cleaning out the sheds is on the agenda. We find the straw bedding is good for the ewes for comfort and the dung is brilliant for worms in the soil.

We can see a difference in grass growth in fields that were spread with dung after a year.

All the sheds will be power-washed with enzymatic detergent, disinfected and then sprayed with a probiotic environmental spray to incorporate a culture of good bacteria into the sheds. This has worked well for us over that past few years.

We intend to put out some lime on land later in the summer/autumn, having seen our soil test results. This will improve the pH of the soil and help unlock nutrients and N, P and K in the soil to help boost grass growth for years to come.

Chemical fertiliser has reduced in price but it is still more than double what it was last year, which is not sustainable.

Some jobs have been put on hold over the past few weeks due to the wet weather.

We still have some shearing to finish off. Ewes in general were quite good to shear, considering we have had little warm weather to date.

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The ewes and hoggets on the hill will be brought in for shearing and weaning soon.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo


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