John Large: It's all systems go for lambing

John Large at his farm in mid Tipperary.
John Large at his farm in mid Tipperary.
File photo
John Large

John Large

With only 20 days before the start of lambing, all ewes to lamb first are housed and on a diet of meal and round baled haylage.

The triplets are on .75kg of meal being fed twice per day. The singles are on .4kg of meal and are fed once a day. The twins, who were only housed last week, are being slowly built up to .5kg of meal. We are feeding these ewes twice a day to get them used to the change in diet from all grass to meal and silage.

If we take our time with this change in diet we hope to avoid any digestive upsets which would lead to problems such as Twin Lamb Disease. The reason these ewes are not housed until now was because of the mild winter, we were able to get grass to graze that was sown after corn last autumn.

With good growth and ground conditions so dry for grazing, the ewes have done really well and are in very good condition. The only problem we had was ewes going on their back for the last few weeks.

There was a lot less work compared to feeding and bedding them inside. The only job we had there was fencing. We had to put two rows of poly wire around each field before we could put in the ewes.

All the ewes have been vaccinated with Covexin 10 at a rate of 1ml each.

This is a booster shot to increase the ewes antibodies which is passed on through her colostrum to the new born lambs which gives them immunity to prevent clostridial disease for the first six weeks of life. They can then be vaccinated themselves but be sure to give them two shots four weeks apart to get best results.

These vaccines work very well in sheep and are cost effective by decreasing the number of dead lambs in the first six weeks of life.

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Protecting your next crop of lambs starts well before they are born by ensuring the ewes get their booster injection pre-lambing.

We also gave all the ewes a mineral dose the day they were vaccinated. We again used Twin Plus from Natural Stockcare. We find with this dose we get livelier lambs who get up and suck quickly after birth.

We scanned the repeat ewes in early February which gave us an average lambing percentage of 1.9 lambs per ewe to the ram. We have 26 not in lamb which is 5pc, high when compared to natural service flocks, but seems to be the best we can do when we use AI.

Over the next week we have to clean out the two sheep sheds, put up all the individual pens and gather up all our lambing equipment. Most important will be some form of colostrum, ewe, cow or artificial that can be made up easily.

Also a lamb weighing scales to help access colostrum requirements. You should give a lamb 5pc of his body weight e.g. a 4kg lamb should get 200mls. We often milk a triplet ewe that has lambed and mix her colostrum with the artificial product which gives each lamb the chance to get some antibodies from the mothers colostrum. When going to milk a ewe we give them 1ml of Oxytocin to help with milk let-down it also keeps the ewe quieter while you milk her.

Slurry

We have spread a half bag of Urea on most of the fields with a good cover of grass - there should be enough for ewes and lambs to eat when they go out.

I just hope we do not run out of grass come the beginning of April when we seem to get very tight and have to go in with meal to ewes, so grass gets a chance to build up again.

We spread slurry on two bare fields that were grazed last at 2000gals per acre. So that is another job done and we should have no problem with slurry until after lambing.

This year we could drive on all fields, last year we had to pick the driest ones to spread slurry on, what a difference. Just hope the dry weather continues and the spring is kind to us.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

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