John Large: Mastitis rises as wet ground puts squeeze on our ewes

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

John Large

We are nearly finished lambing with just a few late ewes and hoggets left now. As they lamb they are kept inside for a few days. We are still very tight for grass especially on the fields that were grazed first.

Regrowth is very slow and our rotation length is too short, going back into fields that need a few more days to get a better cover on them is not a good idea. But when a field is bare of grass we move onto the next one, at least they have a clean field for a few more days. We are still feeding most of the ewes rearing twins 1kg of nuts on the grass.

All ground, except for two wet paddocks received two dressings of fertiliser, one bag of Urea in March and a bag-and-a-half of Pasture Sward in April. Anywhere there was a good cover of grass has grown on well especially after the few days of sun we got in the middle of April, but we all know it was short-lived. Just checking back through old diaries we got tight for grass again in 2016 and were feeding until early May, but that year ground conditions were a lot drier than now.

The real problem this year has been the wet ground conditions which has led to an increase in ewes getting mastitis, lambs getting Joint ill and a bigger threat from coccidiosis. We will dose all lambs this week for Nematodirus with a white drench and also dose for coccidiosis using a product which has a residual effect to give cover for a few weeks.

All the early lambs will be weighed the same time. We do not expect 40-day weights to be good but hopefully the lambs can make up ground before weaning. Ewes are also in poorer condition than other years. They will need more feeding after weaning. I also expect our cull rate to be higher. More ewes got mastitis, from lambs feeding harder trying to compensate for the lack of grass, which led to ewes getting sore teats.

What do you do with these ewe-lambs in a year like this? We took most of them away from the ewes and put them on a Volac ewe two-lamb feeder. Once they learned to feed there was very little problem with them. We get them onto cold milk as quickly as possible which cuts down on the amount of milk they drink and gets them to eat meal instead. Using cold milk seems to help reduce the incidence of lambs getting bloated from over-feeding.

Our ewe-lambs have all nearly lambed by now. The singles were only housed the first week of April. The first week they lambed themselves with small handy lambs. Then in week two we had more trouble delivering the lambs, and even had a few sections. The lambs had grown big very quickly. We were only feeding 250gm of meal and some good hay.

But surprise, surprise after a week of hardship everything turned around, some even started to lamb themselves more or less the same size lambs but presenting correctly with two feet and a head not like the week before with one leg and a head that wouldn't go back, so that you could get the other leg or be able to lamb with one leg.

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The ewe-lambs have not got a lot of milk when they lamb but come on after a few days. Again weather is not helping as we cannot get them out for a week after lambing. By then the lambs are handy and their mothers need a pick of grass to keep them milking.

The small number with twins were no problem. They are all still inside getting 1kg of meal and the lambs have access to a creep feeder.

The big job on this farm is no different to everybody else - try and get as much fodder for next winter, so growing grass for the next two months is a priority. We have a lot of ground to make up. This time last year we made bales of silage on May 4. We're a long way from there now.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

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