| 7.6°C Dublin

John Large: Put a plan in place for tight grass supplies as flocks are turned out


File photo

File photo

File photo

With the main lot of ewes lambed, now is a good time to sit down and review what worked well and what didn't.

Have a look at your targets and if you find that you are significantly short of them, then talk to your vet or adviser about ways to bring your flock's performance back in line next year.

Our two main issues this year are the prolapse rate in ewes before lambing and joint ill in lambs.

The prolapse rate should be less than one for every 100 ewes. Our numbers are more like three per 100 ewes. To reduce this, all ewes that prolapsed this year were tagged and will be culled at the end of the year and we will try to not to keep any replacements from these ewes.

On joint ill, the target rate for cases is less than one for every 100 lambs. We are way over this, possibly four per 100.

After talking to our adviser, it seems inadequate colostrum at birth is the reason.

We have noticed some of the infected lambs are on foster ewes, so that could be why they did not get enough colostrum as the ewe's own single lamb could have gotten most of the first colostrum, leaving little for the adopted lamb.

But ultimately it is a ewe nutritional issue that will have to be addressed for next year.

Other issues to look at are ewe mortality (mating to end of lambing), number of ewes aborted or showing up empty, the number of lambs turned out as a percentage of lambs scanned - this should be greater than 90pc - and the number of lambs treated for watery mouths.

We are on target with these issues and compare favourably with Teagasc targets.

Now that most of the ewes and lambs are out on grass it is important to keep a close eye on grass supplies. Ewes' demand increases rapidly after lambing and grass supplies can be quickly depleted.

The late application of fertiliser - we only got urea spread on March 21 - will mean that unless we get very mild weather we could be tight for grass in the next few weeks.

So it is important to plan ahead. We will place ewes and lambs into three main groups to reduce the number of grazing groups and to get rotational grazing going.

We will feed concentrates for the next few weeks to slow down the rotation and let the grass have a chance to grow.

While we have grass it is more important to supplement now rather than waiting until grass goes scarce.

The issues to watch out for now are grass tetany in ewes and cocidosis in the lambs. We use Hi Mag mineral buckets and concentrate mixed with Cal Mag at a rate of 5-10 kg per ton when feeding ewes outside.

These two options work well for us and we have very few tetany cases.

Cocidosis is a parasite disease that mostly affects lambs between three and eight weeks of age. Very often the disease is incorrectly diagnosed as nematodirus as it occurs at the same time in March-born lambs.

Cocidosis is characterised by a dark, sometimes bloodstained scour, and if left untreated this parasite will cause damage to the lamb's digestive tract.

Delayed treatment can result in high mortality and poor performance.


Lambs have maternal immunity to the parasite for the first few weeks of life, but once this wears off they start to pick up the parasite.

In general most lambs will have developed their own immunity to the parasite by eight to 10 weeks of age.

Where young lambs start to scour at around four to five weeks, we will dose first for nematodirus infection. If the lambs don't dry up after this treatment, we will go in straight away with a cocidosis treatment.

Sometimes if we have a few lambs scouring we will just catch them in the field and treat for Cocidosis, monitor the response and if these lambs dry up we will dose all the group.

I will look at the issues around lamb weight next month.

Finally, I have to compliment the labour we had on the farm for the two weeks at the peak of lambing. They were young, enthusiastic, keen to learn and easy to work with.

They left me with the impression that there are plenty of young people out there who, when given the responsibility and opportunity, have the ability to push the sheep industry forward.

Indo Farming