Foster ewes can cause trouble - so be wary when buying

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Tom Staunton

Breeding sales are in full swing around the country as the sheep farming cycle begins again. We are preparing our Mule ewe lambs and hoggets for the premier sale in Ballinrobe.

Breeding replacement sheep is no easy task as there are many variables. The Mayo Mule group that I'm involved in keep a close relationship with their customers, who return year after year.

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Buying replacements keeps the system of breeding lambs for fattening more streamlined and means that farms can keep a higher stocking rate of mature ewes on the farm instead of running some dry hoggets.

In between the sales over the next month we will be sorting our ewes to suit the rams. All the underperforming ewes and ewes culled for various reasons - including mastitis, bad feet and poor thrive - will be sold; some have been sold already.

Ewes will get minerals and fluke dose, and any incoming hoggets will get vaccinated against abortion.

This is used as a preventative measure, and is good practice for farmers to do so to safeguard flocks. Disease can be brought onto a farm in many ways, such as vermin, contaminated straw and hay, and buying in foster ewes or pet lambs.

Foster ewes tend to be forgotten about; but they are often problem ewes, and the impact they have on the farm may not be seen until the following season, so it's important to ensure that a foster ewe you buy has genuine reason being without a lamb.

We are now gearing up for the Mule sales on September 7 and 27, as well as the West of Ireland Lanark group sale on the 14th, in conjunction with the sale of pedigree-registered Blue-faced Leicester rams in Ballinrobe.

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We have a selection of hogget rams and ram lambs for both and 30 Lanark ewe lambs, plus Mule ewe lambs.

Even though it is a busy time of year, I enjoy going to the sales, whether buying or selling or just having a look to see how the trade is going.

It was a busy summer travelling to shows with stock and promoting the breeds.

The last show of the year for us is the National livestock show in Tullamore. There was fantastic competition in both the Mule and Blue-faced Leicester classes, with the largest entries ever for both breeds.

The remaining lambs on the farm have plenty of grass and are not being fed meal at present. With some more aftergrass from a second cut of silage coming on stream I will delay feeding any meals to these wether lambs and try to fatten as many as possible from grass.

It has been quite wet and lamb thrive may begin to slow on just grass alone if it continues this way. If the wet weather continues meal will be introduced sooner.

The replacement ewe lambs have been separated and will be plunge-dipped along with the breeding ewes in the coming weeks.

I bred some Lanark-type Blackface ewe lambs last year and this worked out quite well. I am unsure if I will continue to do that this year.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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