Fingers crossed we are on course for compact lambing

John Large

John Large

We have all the rams out with the ewes since October 31 to pick up any ewes that did not hold to AI. After the first day, when the rams were obviously very excited, there has not been much activity and not many ewes are marked yet.

Sometimes it can be the next cycle when we get more ewes showing signs of heat. Why this happens we do not know, maybe their heat cycle has been upset due to the sponging. With very good weather and plenty of grass available since AI, we would have every reason to expect a high conception rate and plenty of lambs born in early March.

We also have Charollais rams out with 125 ewe-lambs. These are the best of our replacements and the remaining 50 have been left empty for their first year.

We will remove the rams after two cycles which will be the first week of December, so all lambs will be born in April.

To get these ewe-lambs to lamb compactly we used the 'ram effect' by putting a vacectomised ram in 14 days before the fertile rams. This trigers the ewe-lambs to begin cycling at the same time.

The most important thing is that the females have not been near a ram for the previous two months.

These ewe-lambs are on rented grass getting a fresh move every three days. They also get access to high energy feed-buckets.

The grass is not very good quality or maybe it is with many varieties of grasses and plantain to give them a varied diet. If they perform as well as last year I will be happy.

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Grass growth has been good this autumn and for the rest of this month the challenge will be to graze out paddocks properly.

Paddocks should be grazed out fully before being closed for winter. This means eating grass down to 3.5cm which will allow light down to the base of the plant encouraging tillering and a fresh leafy growth for next spring.

Philip Creighton
Philip Creighton

Once fields are closed they must remain closed, do not be tempted to go back in for a quick grazing.

This grass will be much more valuable to the ewes after lambing than it is to them in mid-pregnancy when they can afford to loose some weight. To graze out some paddocks, that had high covers of grass, we divided the paddocks into two-acre blocks.

This way we got them grazed out well and then we were able to spread farmyard manure after grazing. Our aim is to to have 30pc closed by early November, 60pc by late November and 80pc by mid December.

We usually have most of the ewes housed by then with only the late repeat ewes still out until January.


Our discussion group took a few days off in late October to visit the Teagasc Research Centre in Athenry where we met Philip Creighton.

The demonstration farm is doing trials comparing different stocking rates and are and also looking at profilicty.

Philip is running six different flocks and comparing the results. So far from my point of view the medium stocking rate with high profilicty seems to be the one working best.

This year he found lambs hard to finish and got poor kill-out rates from an all-grass diet.

This part of the country got a lot more rain than we did down south which probably affected lamb thrive.

Philip is heading into his last season on this research so his final analysis should be interesting next year.

We also visited the project where they are comparing the top New Zealand genetics against the best of their Irish counterparts.

They have Suffock and Texel from New Zealand and two flocks of the same two breeds from Ireland. On visual appearance they are very different with lighter bone and smaller heads especially on the New Zealand Suffocks.

The New Zealand Texels do not seem visually very uniform, some even have wool on their foreheads.

Hopefully visual appearance will have little to do with the results.

The widespread use of genomics by New Zealand sheep farmers has helped the country develop an annual rate of genetic improvement that is three times the normal here.

I hope the project can push up our genetic improvement and we can catch up with our foreign compeditors.

A special thanks to Philip and Fiona for their time and their openness about their trials.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co. Tipperary.

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