John Large: The current sums on sheep production just don't add up

File photo
File photo
John Large

John Large

The price we are getting for our lambs can only be described as depressing.

When you can only get lambs into €90 each, there's just no money in them for the farmer

At this price it is very hard just to pay bills, everything seems to be getting more expensive as we stay in the same place.

We are expected to produce a quality assured product, to a specific weight, with full traceability and electronic tags for a price that returns us poor income for all our work. How long more will we keep going for? Below-cost production will not last long.

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Maybe my generation will stay, but the next generation will not even get involved.

There is a lot easier ways of making a living, where they know what they will get at the end of each week.

At the moment we are selling lambs every two weeks with none getting meal. However, sales are much slower than last year.

I find we have to get liveweight up to over 47kg before we get them to die over 20kg, so our kill-out is around 44pc.

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If we were feeding meal, we could draft at 44kg and get them into 20kg dead weight.

Meanwhile, all our ewes have been served again this year by AI. The only change this year is we left an extra two days between A.I. serves.

The reason behind this change is to give us a more even weeks lambing, just trying to get away from the middle two days when lambing from each AI overlaps. While the extra two days between AI will benefit lambing, it should reduce the number of really busy days.

We have a lot of hogget ewes this year that have not lambed as ewe-lambs. We served all of them on the first day with the hope of having more time and space to accommodate them in small pens for a few extra days. We will soon let out the rams to pick up the repeat ewes.

They will be removed as usual the first week of December. This year we will not let any ewe-lambs to the ram. Having done this last year, we did not miss the work of lambing them or feeding them before or after lambing, but we do miss the extra lambs to sell.

Another bonus not often mentioned is you've very few losses, no ewes getting mastitis or prolapse animals to cull. So we have all the ewe-lambs from last year for this year's mating as hoggets.

We have the ewes in three groups, and all have enough grass for about a month. Then we will move most onto rented grass until the end of December. Last year we were able to keep out most of the twin bearing ewes until February, but this year most of that extra grass is not available. So housing will be December and onto a diet of silage and hay.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

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