Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

Feeding meal can help reduce weaning stress on lambs

Farming Independent editor Louise Hogan presents the Sheep Farmer of the Year award to Joe Scahill

Tom Staunton

An All Ireland for Mayo in May! I would like to congratulate Joe Scahill on winning the Zurich Farm Insurance Farming Independent Sheep Farmer of the Year Award. This is a great achievement and I can think of no one more deserving.

He puts tremendous effort into his flock and into the voluntary sheep producer groups here in Mayo. I have worked with Joe in the Mayo Mule and Greyface ewes group for many years now and I'm not surprised with his success. I wish continued success to Joe and his family.

I hope to cut silage in the next few days. The silage ground has grown well over the past few weeks. I will make silage bales from all of it.

I was hoping to cut some of it a little earlier but conditions didn't permit. The after grass will be welcome for when I will wean lambs. It should give them a little boost.

I am quite happy with the way lambs have thrived so far this year. I find it is important that this continues for the weeks up to weaning and to ensure a smooth weaning.

Many issues can occur at this time of year which may cause poor growth rates. Lameness can be an issue in lambs, particularly scald.

Currently it's not a major problem here. I find keeping on top of it key. Any lambs that are lame I treat them as soon as I can to prevent spread.

Another issue is blowfly strike. I plan to use a pour-on the lambs and I will dip all lambs that will be sold for breeding later in the year.

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On the lambs that are closer to slaughter I will use a short withdrawal pour-on. It is important to be conscious of this when buying pour-on or dip.

Weaning can be a stressful time and growth rates can plummet.

Ensuring that weaning stress is kept to a minimum is important. I intend to give some meal to lambs a few weeks before weaning so that this transition runs more smoothly. Lamb growth rates should not be affected as much as they are not as reliant on ewe's milk at this stage.

Grass is more difficult to manage over the past few weeks with the sudden surge in growth. The re-growths have been poorer and grass stemmier in any fields that had not been grazed down tightly.

This stemmy grass is not productive. I find meal feeding can help maintain growth rates if the grass has gone this way. I hope to start drafting the first of the Mule wether lambs towards the end of June and into July.

When breeding Mule lambs I always put great emphasis on carcass conformation and the Mule lambs generally grade Rs and Us.

Lamb prices have held strong over the past month which is encouraging to see. They have been boosted by the Ramadan festival and the lack of supply also.

I noticed that many farmers have decided to lamb later this year which is currently having a knock on effect on supply.

Lamb consumption within Ireland and in many countries has become stagnant and major efforts need to be made to encourage more people to eat lamb. Perhaps more innovation is needed to make lamb attractive to consumers.

We are currently getting sheep organised for shows for the summer. We have a number of events coming up with the groups I'm involved in.

The AIB National Livestock show in Tullamore in August is the biggest show that we will attend. I'll be there with the Bluefaced Leicester society, Mayo Mule and Greyface group and the newly formed West of Ireland Lanark breeders. All groups will be displaying and showing their sheep.

It is our first time displaying with the West of Ireland Lanark breeders who will have their first sale of rams in September.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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