Farm Ireland

Friday 26 April 2019

Sheep farmer on why shed space will be at a premium this spring

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Tom Staunton

THE flock was scanned in the first few days in January when there was still some help about.

Overall the scan went well but there were more barren ewes than I would like. This is partly down to perhaps a large proportion of the ewes were sponged and AI’d.

A ram was running with these ewes up until a few weeks before scanning and I hope most of these are in lamb. After scanning, I let a ram run with the batch of empties. These ewes will be marked and a decision will be made later in the year on whether to keep them or not.

They will be re-scanned when I scan the ewe lambs next month. Overall the ewes scanned just under 1.6 lambs/ewe including emp­ties on the Scotch Blackface flock. The higher number of empties brings this down a bit.

After scanning the ewes were separated into batch­es. The singles, couples and the triplets are all grouped together now and will be fed accordingly. Some older ewes will be grouped with the triplet ewes and will get some extra attention.

The ewes are all housed and are getting baled silage.

The first of the Bluefaced Leicester ewes will begin to lamb the last few days of February and are getting some concentrates along with the silage, minerals and vitamins.

The great advantage of scanning is separating the ewes for feeding. Ewes can be fed more accurately which will help avoid waste and also ensure both ewe and lambs are fed optimally during the last six weeks of gestation. This will help improve lamb size, colos­trum quality and quantity which all have large knock on effects on lamb growth rates.

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Ewes will be fed according to the silage results. The si­lage tested 69DMD, ME 10.5 MJ/kg, dry matter 40.3pc, pH 4.3, ammonia 5.10pc of N, crude protein 10.3pc and sugar 14.5g/kg. I’m quite happy with this considering we found it difficult to have a few dry days together to cut and bale it last June.

Weather didn’t allow us to cut it the last week of May and it was knocked in early June. I like to get the silage reasonably dry for ewes to allow good intakes. It would have been better to have CP higher which would help cut back on feed costs and I plan to try improve this for next year.

Ewes will be fed a simple four or five way mix includ­ing rolled barley, flaked maize, sugar beet pulp, soya bean meal for protein and a small amount of molasses. Extra minerals will also be added.

With many ewes lamb­ing down in the first week of March because of AI. I want to make sure that ewes have plenty of colostrum and milk and are in good condition as many problem ewes at this time would take up too much space and a lot of time could be taken up, feeding lambs, fostering lambs etc.

The Volac Ewe 2 automat­ic feeder will be at the ready for any extra lambs for fos­tering where I cannot adopt a lamb onto another ewe.

All ewes will be vaccinat­ed with Heptavac P Plus in February a month ahead of lambing. I am also planning on worming the ewes before they go out to grass which I found worked very well for

 me last year with little to no scouring from ewes com­pared to previous years.

With so many ewes lamb­ing together, shed space will be very valuable this spring. I have two areas where I usually pen ewes and their lambs individually for a day before they go outside.

These will be power washed, cleaned with an en­zymatic detergent, disinfect­ed, let dry and filled with a bed of straw then sprayed with a probiotic bacteria to prevent against e coli and other infectious agents.

I will also make up some lambing pens in other sheds or anywhere a ewe can fit! January can be a dreary month but I really look for­ward to lambing to see what the year ahead will bring.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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