Housing the priority as countdown to lambing starts

Ewes with lambs had to be fed meal in April. Stock photo
Ewes with lambs had to be fed meal in April. Stock photo
John Large

John Large

As we come to the end of 2016, grass supplies are almost all grazed off and housing is the next move for our flock. Most of the mature ewes will be housed at the end of this week and put on a diet of silage until the end of the month when they will be scanned.

Any of the repeat ewes, raddle-marked by the rams, will be picked off and left outside on fodder-beet-tops until the end of January. The dry weather in October and November has led to good utilization of grass and also helped get fields eaten out well.

Ewes are in good condition after the dry weather so it is very important to house them now when grass supply is scarce as they will loose weight quickly. We are only 12 weeks from lambing so we need to hold them in this good condition.

All rams have been removed from the mature ewes since December 4 and were removed from the ewe-lambs last Saturday.

We have one small field with some grass on it and the rams are in there now getting some meal and silage. They need a bit of extra attention after mating, we also get their feet checked, give a dose for fluke, and a shot of Heptivac P should see them right for winter.

Any rams that do not improve and put on condition will be culled after a few months. Most important is to allow enough feeding space so that the ram-lambs have enough room to feed and are not bullied by the older boys.

Lamb sales have gone well with about 85pc sold. After the shock of poor kill-out, with too many R2 grade lambs on the first load after weaning, we introduced a small amount of meal to lambs when they were over 40kg and this seemed to do the job.

Kill-out improved, grades improved and kill weight also increased. We just fed a high energy meal with barley, citrus pulp and corn gluten mixed in a small amount of molasses.

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Once on the meal we were able to pick lambs to sell every two weeks. By going through the lambs every two weeks we were able to avoid sending light lambs and not too many overweight lambs or ones with a fat score of four to the factory. Sometimes we would get fooled by some lambs that died very well or maybe by a few ewe-lambs that would kill out with a high fat score.

The last load of lambs were fed on fodder rape. They were put onto the field on the first of November. Most of them were sold on the first of December at a live and weight of 44kg. They handled very well, had a surprisingly good kill-out of 48pc.

We divided the field into two acre sections and made them eat it out well before moving on to the next section. I suppose the weather again had a lot to do with how they performed.

We have another field to eat now with the last 150 lambs and they should hopefully be sold by mid January. We will feed some meal to this lot to make sure they get to market as quick as possible. Any rape not eaten will be kept for the dry ewe lambs who will also be fed round bale silage.

When we look back on the year, we are happy enough. The crunch for feed again came in April when we had to feed meal to ewes with lambs. We also got a couple of very wet weekends which took a few lambs.

There was exceptional growth in May which gave us plenty of extra work harvesting this grass into bales. All summer really we always had a paddock or two to cut and gather up when the weather was helpful. The autumn was exceptional with plenty of grass for ewes at mating.

Price-wise this year was not too bad, only for the drop in September when we nearly went down to 4.50/kg. This year was our first time to sell all our lambs on a graded price system. I would have to say if you could achieve 35pc of your lambs to grade U then it is worthwhile.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

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