Mayo lamb producer groups have stood the test of time
The long dark nights give me time to reflect on the year and also to attend sheep group meetings and gatherings.
I recently attended the 30th anniversary dinner dance of the South Mayo Quality Lamb producer group which I was involved with from day one.
At the time it was one of the first groups of its type in the west. It is a testament to all involved in the group that it is still going strong to this day.
Producer groups like this and Mayo Blackface group are very popular with farmers and especially with part time farmers.
They are convenient in terms of transport to the factories and the group work out a price and deal for the farmers and members of the group.
The lambs that I put in the shed for finishing have thrived well on a nearly all-meal diet. They are getting a small amount of hay as a supply of roughage and they are on straw bedding. When this is topped up they also have a nibble at it too.
I had no issues with digestive upsets as the lambs were built up slowly on the meal outside before going indoors for the final push.
A batch of 40 lambs went last week. At the time of writing I haven't any kill sheets back but I'd expect the lambs to have a good kill-out percentage as they were nicely fleshed and weighed well. The remaining lambs will be all gone by Christmas.
I could have sent some more as they have the flesh but as the price is rising I'm in no panic to sell. They should finish in to heavier weights. Once the lambs are gone the sheds will be power-washed as the birds were a bit of an issue when we were feeding the lambs.
There isn't much action between the ewes and rams, but I am hoping most are in lamb at this stage. I plan to take some of the Bluefaced Leicester rams up this week. I will run a few Lanark ram lambs with ewes for a week or two and then wait to see what the scanning brings. The rams will get some meal inside once taken up to help them recover from losing some condition.
Depending on the weather, I plan to house the ewes towards the end of December. They will be foot-bathed on going in and are due another fluke dose at this stage. I have taken up ground over the past month to six weeks to allow a regrowth which is needed in the spring.
Grass grew well in November and it was tempting to graze it, but it will be worth more to the ewes and lambs in the spring. In the early New Year I will get the ewes scanned. They then will be separated into groups and penned accordingly in the shed for feeding pre-lambing. This allows for more targeted feeding. This can be a great cost-saver as the singles don't need as much as twins and will also prevent the triplets from being underfed. The aim is to have the ewes in a healthy and fit condition with a good supply of milk for lambs. Once they go to grass the aim is not to feed the ewes any meal.
Overall, it was a difficult year with the wet and cold spring followed by a drought bringing challenges which many farmers haven't met for a very long time. Breeding sales were more difficult than normal with customers more selective. There is a lot of uncertainty among the farming community at the moment. Lamb prices are slowly creeping up and let's hope this continues into the New Year.
Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo
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