Lambing is over and things are calming down somewhat on the farm here despite the storm that is taking place outside the farm gate.
I feel pretty lucky to be a farmer at the moment. For most farmers around the country it's very much business as usual - nothing has changed on the farm and for my part I have never been busier.
I always like to take a quick look back over how lambing went. Having dosed the main batch of lambs for nematodirus, I am delighted to have 1.7 lambs per mature ewe skipping about the fields.
Now that they are all counted, I just hope that there won't be any stolen from my fields. Last year I had over 30 lambs go missing, never to be seen again. I think the culprits reckoned that I wouldn't notice.
There is little a sheep farmer can do other than clearly mark their sheep and depend on the Gardaí or word of mouth when it comes to sheep theft.
But I would advise all farmers to stay vigilant and I would also ask factories and marts to be wary of sheep being presented for sale by dubious sources.
Once lambing is over, I try to foot-bath the flock at least once a month. It's absolutely crucial to keep lameness at bay at all times of the year as it drastically affects thrive.
I run them through a zinc sulphate footbath every time I have them in the yard, using a 'hydrometer' to make sure the solution is strong enough to kill the lameness-causing bugs.
It is also worthwhile moving the sheep to different paddocks and giving these paddocks a two-week break from sheep as the bugs won't survive beyond this.
You can control lameness on the farm, but you will never fully get rid of it as scalds will develop in lambs especially where grass is longer. This is why you should footbath regularly and correctly.
As mentioned its crucial to get the first dose for 'nematodirus' into your lambs as the Department have issued warnings about this.
The nematodirus worm hatches at various stages through the spring as temperatures rise and it's really important to get this dose into your older lambs which have started eating grass.
The post-lambing tidy-up is currently underway. I don't like to leave it too long to put things away until next year as very soon silage cutting and hay making season get priority and the tidy-up gets left on the back burner.
I find keeping a place clean and tidy is both good for your farm and good for your head.
I hate working in clutter and, on top of this, a tidy farm yard is always a safer farm yard.
I have had little or no grass tetany this year compared to last year when I lost over 20 sheep with it.
I changed things around somewhat and introduced high magnesium lick buckets earlier. I am feeding 250g of a high magnesium nut I got from Quinns to all the ewes. It's really handy with the sheep snacker as I can feed them quickly and efficiently.
There is a little extra cost with this but it's better than losing 20 ewes and I also notice the lambs are nibbling on the nuts as well.
This has kept the ewes and lambs in super condition and I envisage being able to draft lambs sooner as a result.
The ewe hoggets have finished up lambing and are thriving well at grass. The good weather in April was perfect for them and until the rain we got last week they had no setbacks.
As with the older ewe, I am feeding the ewe hoggets with lambs at foot with the snacker.
It's achieving huge results, as both the ewe hoggets and lambs are thriving really well.
This approach is a bit more expensive, but I can really see the benefits from supplementing them. I have had less losses and the hogget ewes will be in a better place to make good ewes next year.
I have spent approximately €15 per head on feed for the 1,000 ewes on the farm. I think that in the scheme of things this is not too bad - the lambs are thriving well and I don't see them having too much trouble being finished as the year progresses.
The grass situation on the farm is good and the rain that fell was badly needed. I used the good weather to get some reseeding done with high clover grass seed mix I got from Drummonds.
I also put a bit of redstart into the mix to help with finishing lambs later in the summer.
I had toyed with the idea of sowing typhon, but I was slightly concerned that it could bolt on me if I didn't have the stock to eat it quick enough.
I have learned over the years that its handy to have a finishing crop like fodder rape, redstart or typhon to finish lambs as meal is expensive and when you're reseeding it's no harm to under-sow it with such crops.
Finally I'm looking forward to shearing next June.
I might have to put myself in the shearing line up if the local barbers aren't allowed out of lockdown, I'm getting a bit woolly. I could have worse complaints I suppose.
John Fagan farms in Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath