After another month of very little rain on our farm, grass is still in scarce supply.
We are feeding the heaviest group of lambs ad-lib, giving them access to as much meal as they will eat. They are consuming over 1kg per head and they also have good grass. There will not be much money left after the meal bill is paid, but at least they will be gone off the farm and leave more grass for ewes.
We are feeding all other lambs about .5kg of meal daily. The only ones not getting any meal are the ewe lambs we are keeping for breeding.
We have spread all the farm with 30 units of nitrogen in the form of Cut Sward with sulphur. The fertiliser spread on July 28 got rain a few days later and worked well with grass showing a good response.
We spread more the following Saturday, August 4 and have had a very slow response. It is just a matter of waiting for the rain to come and get the fertiliser working.
We have sown about 30 acres of fodder rape. With soil temperatures high, the possibility of a good crop seems strong. Some fields were sown with a single pass, others we ran the disc over and then sowed. It should be interesting to see what difference this makes to plant establishment and if there is any extra yield.
With the breeding season only eight weeks away, now is the time to go through the breeding rams. By giving them a good health check now we have time to correct any problems before the next breeding season.
Rams that are thin will need to put on condition which will take time and feed. Rams not responding to treatment for issues such as lameness or not putting on condition, despite being given extra feed, will be culled.
We will need to purchase a few replacement rams. Even though we will not need them until the end of October, we will purchase them this month so they will have time to acclimatise to their new farm. It also gives us time to quarantine them to ensure that they are not going to introduce any diseases to our flock.
We will have a go at reducing the number of lame ewes we have on the farm. We have about 5pc lame, but if we do not maintain foot-bathing this could easily rise quickly.
Once you have identified the problem ewes, stand them in a foot-bath of 10pc Zinc Sulphate for half an hour. We treat badly effected ewes with antibiotics. The most important task is to is keep infected ewes in a separate group away from non-infected sheep and, if possible, repeat foot-bathing twice per week. When cured put them back with the main flock.
Just identify these ewes first and if some of them become repeat offenders they should be culled. If we can get on top of lameness at this time of the year it can be a good help later in the year, especially at housing.
We have enough fodder on the farm between baled silage and hay. We are using hay at present to cows that are due to calve next month. We are very short on straw for bedding the ewes, so this will be our biggest challenge over the winter.
With more forage crops sown we should be able to keep some ewes out longer, hopefully until February. We may try some wood-chips when the ewes are first housed and keep the straw until near lambing. We could also use wood-bark for the small pens at lambing. We used peat for calves and some cattle last year and it worked well.
John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary.