Our Farm: Tipp sheep farmer on success lambing ewe lambs
John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary
We have been busy over the last few weeks preparing ewes for the Central Progeny Test (CPT) AI. All ewes were sponged the first week of October.
At sponging time data was also collected on several traits, including ewe weight, body condition score, dag score and mastitis. We collected a DNA sample from each of the ewes also. All of this data will be vital in the development of the new health index.
The average weight of the ewes is 72.5kg, with an average body condition score (BCS) of 3.5 which is good at mating time. We also selected 15 ewes that showed signs of mastitis with lumps in their udders from an infection earlier in the year.
These ewes will be culled - we will have enough problems without keeping on these girls.
Once AI is completed (our last day is tomorrow), ewes will be divided into three groups and rams let in to cover the repeat ewes on October 27.
Our attention now turns to ewe lambs which we have already selected for the ram. They have had two injections for abortion, have been dosed for worms and have been administered a mineral dose.
We hope to lamb them with the repeat ewes just like last year. This suits us as we have space to put them in the shed. Ewe lambs tend to cause more issues at lambing time because they need more supervision than mature ewes.
The most important element for us is to have the ewe lambs at at least 65pc of her mature body weight at mating, which is 48kg.
The heavier she is, the better. They also need to gain bodyweight throughout pregnancy. They must have enough to eat in either grass or be supplemented with silage and meal.
We kept ours on grass only until scanning in late January last year.
They were then divided and fed according to scan results and housed a week before lambing. We will only leave the rams with them this year for two cycles, so they will be removed on December 1. This way lambing should be finished in April.
By allowing the lambing period to extend into late April/early May this will invariably reduce the dry period for the yearling ewe the following year.
This in turn will reduce the time available to reach her target body weight and condition prior to mating as a hogget. We would be hoping to get at least one lamb reared per ewe lamb let to the ram.
We are drafting lambs for the factory every two weeks. Last week we sent our biggest draft for this year with 85pc of them 'inspec', which means they were either R3 or U3 in the correct weight lamb as our lambs are being sold on a pay system based on grade, fat score and weight.
These lambs qualified for a bonus over base price. Our average price seems to be working out at 12pc more than the flat rate price. We have to do more work to get these extra few cents - more weighing of lambs and checking for fat cover.
This seems to be the way with all primary producers; more compliance procedures for the same money.
We now have a clipping charge on all lambs. Nothing to do with dirty lambs, this covers the cost of removing wool from the belly of the lamb during slaughter. This is a clean sheep policy which has not yet been introduced by the Department of Agriculture. The department is consulting with stake holders on the issue.
We had some liver and kidney samples taken from lambs in the factory which are now with the local Veterinary Lab for mineral analysis. They will test for copper from the liver samples, and cobalt and selenium from the kidney samples. It will be interesting to see the results.
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