"Don't cast a clout until May is out" is an old saying, underlining the unpredictability of the weather in May. Another adage says, "a wet and windy May fills the barns with corn and hay".
This May has been particularly unpredictable. We have had 2pc of normal rainfall here and we need rain. I am concerned about the survivability of my reseeds.
I managed to draft some lambs to the factory and they did well considering they were only 40kg live - they killed out an average of 19.5kg.
I intend to keep a close eye on them and move lambs and cull ewes off as soon as possible. It's not a year to be holding onto stock beyond what is necessary.
However, I am holding onto my Belclare cross ewe lambs. They are looking smashing. Although it's tempting to let them off and get a few quid in, these ewe lambs will be valuable additions to the flock going forward.
I have been really impressed with the Belclare breed, having introduced them a few years ago.
The lambs are hardy, and the ewes are prolific and have super maternal qualities, which at the end of the day determines the profitability of the flock. It is certainly a breed for the future as far as I am concerned.
I am really happy with how the hoggets and their lambs are doing. I have just finished off the last of the meal I was giving them, and it really worked wonders on them.
They averaged 1.3 lambs per ewe and some of them are rearing twins. Rearing twins is a challenge for a ewe hogget, and I have found that supplementing them with a little bit of feed has kept them thriving really well. The feed snacker came in really handy: I could quickly and efficiently feed them without too much fuss.
When the weather was a bit changeable in early May, I lost two lambs to pneumonia. It's frustrating but there is no point in panicking.
I hear of farmers immediately vaccinating all their lambs but I have found that this is unnecessary unless you have a known problem with clostridial diseases. I do vaccinate the ewes with Covexin 10 prior to lambing so some immunity should be passed on to the lambs.
With livestock there will always be ones that just won't make it. Trying to have eyes in the back of your head with sheep is an expensive game. You just have to get over it.
I planned to sow some fodder rape on which to winter sheep and finish lambs at the tail end of the year but the way the weather is, I am just not convinced any more - unless some rain is forecast I might just be digging a bigger hole for myself. Fodder rape is handy to have, and it's a great crop to sow prior to reseeding as it does wonders for the soil. I have found that unless the pH is right in the soil prior to sowing the crop, it won't perform to its optimum, so it's worth checking this out.
I've applied through TAMS for EID software and reading equipment as well as grassland measurement tools. Now that EID is in I may as well get on board with it. It's expensive and I just hope that lamb prices and the efficiency it delivers will justify its cost.
Lamb prices are currently very good, but you can see the factories testing the market until they know that they can drop them. Much as I like to whinge about it there is nothing I can do other than control the costs inside my gate.
On a different subject, we can't get away on a break due to Covid-19, but we should take some time and learn to switch off around the farm. I find this difficult but I am learning. We all know that life on a farm is 24/7 - just know when it's time to relax and enjoy the good weather.
John Fagan farms in Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath