Last of the lambs have been brought indoors for fattening

File photo
File photo

Tom Staunton

The last of the wether lambs have been moved indoors for fattening. They started outside on a small amount of concentrates and have been building up slowly on the high maize ration.

These lambs were all footbathed on going into the shed. It's a straw bedded shed and they will have access to hay but will probably eat very little of this as the level of concentrates rise. The ration used is a high energy ration with good levels of cereals and it worked well for me last year. Many of the lambs that are for fattening are Lanark-type Blackfaces that will fatten quite well with good conformation.

It's important to slowly adjust lambs from an all-grass diet to a grass and meal diet or even a diet with mostly meal. Problems can arise with ruminal acidosis where lambs get sick from eating too much meal, get sore feet and can scour. They need plenty of clean water and plenty of fresh straw bedding to keep them clean for the factory. They were also dosed for fluke and worms a week before they were housed.

The rams that are running with the ewes are holding well. Many of the ewes are covered at this stage. Raddle has been changed to a dark red on the rams to see if there are any repeats.

It is important to be vigilant now and make sure if there are repeats to react and change rams. Delaying this will lengthen the lambing season. Some of the ram lambs that are out with ewes will be taken up earlier than the more mature rams. This is to prevent them getting too thin and give them a longer chance to recover while they're still growing.

I dosed the replacement ewe lambs for fluke and they were also supplemented for trace elements. These will be wintered outdoors. They will probably get another fluke dose in December and some feed buckets will be put with them to give them a supply of extra energy and protein. The buckets are convenient when the ewe lambs will be away from the main flock.

With the recent good dry spell we got a chance to get jobs done that we didn't get a chance to do this time last year. Some of the land could perhaps be responding better to fertiliser and was inclined to hold surface water, especially in early spring. I asked a local contractor with a sub soiler/pan buster to work on a few fields. It is my first time trying it. It should help quite a bit with drainage in these fields which in turn should give better grass growth, better grass utilisation and better animal performance. I won't know for sure until next year but the early signs are good.

The manure from the sheds was spread on ground that was grazed tight over the past few weeks. The dung will have the chance to break down over the winter months as these fields will be saved until springtime.

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I will gradually start saving fields that have the most shelter, these will suit ewes and lambs in the spring. I aim to have a good supply of grass available for ewes at lambing time with the aim of not feeding any concentrates to the ewes after lambing. Last spring this was the case for a while and then we had no option but to feed concentrates to the ewes as grass supplies began to run tight.

I hope this winter and next spring will be kinder to us as I think all farmers could do with a break after a difficult year.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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