John Fagan: You never stop learning in sheep farming
Lambing is just about to kick off here and I am glad that I left it that bit later. It's almost the calm before the storm amidst the storms. March has always come in like a lion and generally goes out like a lamb and judging by the weather forecast this week it seems the weather gods are looking somewhat favourably on me this year.
It's always the case that in the run up to lambing getting started you'll have a few problems, ewes will lose lambs for various different reasons and it's worth keeping track of things that happen.
A farmer friend once offered me some advice about survival in the sheep business saying that all you needed was a 'sharp spade and a short memory'. He has somewhat of a point.
Obviously, we can't bury dead stock on the farm anymore, however it is important to keep track of deaths on the farm and the reasons that they happen so that next year changes can be made to best avoid them.
In previous years, I have had trouble with abortion and having dropped samples to the regional veterinary lab in Athlone, I discovered that it was down to 'toxo' and enzootic abortion.
On foot of this I began to vaccinate my breeding ewe lambs annually and this has done the trick. Needless to say I still get abortions but these can be attributed to minor issues and the losses are negligible. If you get an abortion, it is worth your while getting a sample to the lab to find out what exactly the problem is, and don't just ignore it, as an abortion storm in your flock could be soul destroying.
The way to remedy this is to find out what the problem is, then begin a vaccination programme with replacement ewe lambs if needs be. In the meantime, if an abortion does happen you need to remove and isolate the ewe from the rest of the flock as quickly as possible.
So far this year I've lost a couple of ewes due to uterine prolapse. This is the most severe form of prolapse and the ewe unfortunately has to be put down. Uterine prolapse usually takes place in late pregnancy and is caused by the ewe over eating or is a problem associated with over fat ewes.