'Electronic tagging will be worthless unless it delivers higher prices and new markets for sheep farmers'

The use of electronic tags will come into effect for the new lamb season
The use of electronic tags will come into effect for the new lamb season

Tom Staunton

There is currently a lot of uncertainty among all farmers.

Much of this uncertainty is brought about by Brexit as no one really knows what is going to happen. All of this is making it difficult for farmers to plan ahead.

I hope that 2019 will be more positive for the sheep sector.

The use of electronic tags will come into effect for the new season lamb which is another cost - whether it will help improve price and new markets for farmers remains to be seen.

I think that the Bord Bia bonus of 5c-10c/kg needs to be at least 30-40c/kg.

At 5c-10c/kg, it is only covering the cost of the electronic tag. Should the bonus not be a fixed sum per kg?

How is it that some farmers get a 5c/kg bonus and others 10c/kg for reaching the same standard? Should it not be the same across the board?

If the electronic tags lead to new and higher value markets for lamb, they will be worth the cost; if not, it is a pointless exercise with no one gaining anything.

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Ewes were housed on January3/4 and scanned the following day. I have enough room for most of the ewes.

On entering the shed, the ewes were run through a race and footbathed. They all received a Closantel-based fluke drench and then into their pens.

I was quite happy with with the Lanark-type Blackface ewes' scanning rate of 1.55 including those that scanned empty. There were few triplets this year.

Fourteen of the 16 Blackface ewe lambs scanned showed in lamb. The ram ran with these for just over a month.

The singles and twins and triplets were separated in the shed into their groups.

Something we noticed with the scanning was that the younger hoggets and ewe lambs didn't scan as good as the older ewes in the flock.

They will now be fed according to litter size and date of lambing. All ewes will get silage for the next month until they begin concentrate feeding.

They will then be fed a ration with added minerals and vitamins based on litter size, with the triplets getting the most feed, then twins and the single ewes will get little supplementation.

The silage looks good this year. It is dry with very little waste and the ewes are eating it well.

I separated a bunch of hoggets that were bought in as they were shy to eat silage and older ewes were bullying them.

They are eating well now but if left with the older ewes, there would be a risk of them losing condition.

The ewe lambs that are in lamb will be supplemented from now on to help them grow and develop.

The plan is to feed no concentrates once the ewes leave the shed and are out to grass. If grass supplies are tight they will be fed once a day at grass.

The dry ewe hoggets on the farm were all tagged in December. They have also been dosed for fluke and worms and received a mineral bolus. They are being out-wintered on grass.

All the rams have been taken up and are getting fed meal to help them gain some body condition after running with the ewes.

Finally, the inaugural South of Ireland Bluefaced Leicester club female sale took place at the show grounds in Carrick-on-Shannon on December 29 with both in-lamb and dry females on sale.

The sale went well with a near full clearance of 93pc. I sold all three ewe lambs for €660, €640 and €440 to two farms who are setting up new Bluefaced Leicester flocks. Best wishes to all customers and it looks like this show could become an annual event.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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