John Large: Triplets and quads posing multiple problems

John Large

John Large

What a difference from last year's wash-out in March and April.

We were feeding all the ewes with nuts outside in the wet and with very little grass, we still had a lot of ewes with lambs inside, feeding continued almost into May.

This year is so different, fine weather and plenty of grass for ewes after lambing.

We put out ewes and lambs in small groups of about 30 ewes into most of the fields for the first few weeks, then grouped them up into groups of 100 ewes plus their lambs.

We had some fields with high covers up to 1,600kg/ha+, these covers can be a problem on a sheep farm as the fields become dirty before the grass is eaten off properly.

This year we have a group of dry hogget ewes which we are using to graze out these paddocks and they are doing a good job eating off what the ewes have left.

We do not let these hoggets into every paddock, just the ones that were almost too strong to graze in early March. We have 16ac closed for silage, this was not grazed and got a half bag of urea in February and two bags of Cut Sward at the end of March. This should be ready for cutting in mid May.

Most sheep farmers when they meet up at this time of year ask each other how did lambing go.

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After six weeks the answer is usually simple, I wish it was over. We have about 20 ewes left to lamb and I'm very relieved we have no yearling ewes in lamb this year.

Our biggest problem at lambing was too many lambs per ewe, with triplets and quads very plentiful.

We mothered off most of them,with no ewe let out to grass with more than two lambs.

These multiple lambs take up a lot of space and time in the individual pens. If we were to change anything next year we should give the single bearing ewes more protein before lambing.

We need more milk but not bigger single lambs so maybe 100grs of soya for the last two weeks would achieve more milk. We lambed the wet two weeks of early March and almost ran out of space in the sheds for a few days. Once the weather changed it was out the door as quickly as we could.

The ewes carrying twins had good strong lambs and plenty of milk, any that gave trouble lambing or had only one teat working were marked and will be culled after weaning.

We got a few cases of Joint Ill and over five days we had seven ewes with mastitis - all outside and rearing twins.

All lived, after treatment with some strong antibiotics and plenty of electrolites to the ewe, but their udders are damaged and all will be culled after weaning.

Their lambs were taken off and reared artificially. These lambs were strong and started to eat meal after a couple of days so they should not need much milk.

The vet said these ewes could have picked up the infection inside in the shed and took a while to develop before showing up a week after going out to the field.

Next job is to weigh all the lambs at 40 days to show how growth weight is progressing, it will also give us an indication on how ewes have milked. Up to this age the lambs growth rate is totally dependent on the ewes ability to produce milk.

We will also dose the lambs for Nematodirus the same day using a white drench. We have already dosed one group of lambs for cocodiosis using a product with a four-week residual effect.

We will spread all the grazing ground with a compound fertiliser this week and close up some more ground for silage.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary.

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