It's time to fatten up the rams for the breeding season

Frank Gibbons (judge) pictured with Kenneth Bailey, Lismurtagh, Tulsk, Castlerea, Co Roscommon with Champion Pedigree sheep
at Ballinrobe 67th Agricultural Show. Photo: © Michael Donnelly
Frank Gibbons (judge) pictured with Kenneth Bailey, Lismurtagh, Tulsk, Castlerea, Co Roscommon with Champion Pedigree sheep at Ballinrobe 67th Agricultural Show. Photo: © Michael Donnelly
John Large

John Large

As summer draws to a close preparation for the breeding season should be well underway. Management decisions between now until mating in mid-October will have a big influence on a successful lambing next spring.

We have all heard the line that the ram is half of your flock. It is very important that he works properly - a malfunctioning ram can be very costly.

Good ram management includes a thorough examination.

This examination should start by accessing the rams condition. Aim for a body score of 3.5 to 4.

A ram will lose up to 15pc of his body weight during the six weeks of the breeding season so poor body condition can affect performance and fertility.

Rams that are thin should be given some extra feed between now and mating.

Check the rams reproductive organs - he should have two even sized testicles that are free of any lumps.

Check that his teeth are not overshot or undershot. Problems with his mouth will prevent the ram from putting on and maintaining condition.

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Good feet are vital in a ram to maintain working ability and condition. Check for foot-rot, stiffness and infection and treat immediately where necessary.

We will buy in two rams for this season.

They will have a high Eurostar rating as genetics has a big influence on improving your flock.

When buying in rams they should be bought well in advance of when they are needed to perform.

Infections that cause the rams' body temperature to rise by as little as one or two degrees in the two-month period up to mating can render the ram infertile.

For this reason it is a good idea to have the ram flock together for two months before mating so any potential problems are identified in time.

We have all the cull ewes picked off the flock. The remainder are divided into two groups.

Flushing for a two to three-week period is not sufficient to get the ewes into the ideal body condition score of 3.5. These thin ewes are on good grass. It takes a ewe on a condition score of 2.5 around 10 weeks to get to a body score of 3.5

To achieve this, they need to be on good grass similar in quality to that for lambs.

The other group of stronger ewes are being used to clean up after the lambs and thin ewes.

They are being used as toppers but will be moved to better grass before mating. The aim is to get the majority of ewes to near ideal condition by the middle of October. All ewes will receive a mineral dose three weeks before mating.

We have our ewe-lambs shorn and vaccinated against Toxo and Enzootic abortions. They look a very even bunch and are thriving well, most are over 40kg.

The plan is to let them all to the ram on November 1 for five weeks. We are selling lambs every two weeks since we started to feed a small bit of meal. Kill-outs have improved and fat score is now mostly 3.

Drafting lambs at about 45kg lightweight is giving us a carcass of over 20kg with a kill-out of 45pc. It is also good to see prices staying over €5/kg but I hope the change in the value of sterling does not have a big impact on prices.

A lot of lambs have been killed or exported live for the Ramadan Festival and with good farmer demand for stores, maybe the numbers are not there for the factories and the price can hold steady at the present level.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Thurles, Co Tipperary

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