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Saturday 18 November 2017

Rations are being increased as lambing dates approach

John Barton from Glenbeigh, County Kerry, rounding up his sheep after they went wandering. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
John Barton from Glenbeigh, County Kerry, rounding up his sheep after they went wandering. Photo:Valerie O’Sullivan
John Fagan

John Fagan

The ewes scanned well at 1.9 lambs per ewe and I separated and condition scored them into their various groups based on the amount of lambs they are carrying. I got the silage tested and at 65 DMD, it's just about good enough to keep them ticking over. I am gradually introducing a coarse ration mixed with silage.

They are not due to lamb until the first week in March, but it is important to keep an eye on their condition, with any ewes that are falling behind being separated and getting extra feed.

You need to watch the ingredients of what you are feeding ewes pre-lambing. Soya, the protein source, in the ration should be located at least third on the ingredients list. Soya is essential if you want your ewes to produce plenty of milk.

Watch this carefully as a cheap ration might seem like good value but, if it has the wrong ingredients, you can run yourself into a lot of trouble come lambing time. Generally, ewes carrying one lamb get no meal up until about two weeks out from lambing.

Ewes carrying twins are gradually built up to 0.5kgs of ration four weeks out from lambing. Triplets get the same, but two weeks out I feed them twice daily.

Uterine prolapse can be caused if you over-feed your sheep. It's a pretty grim thing to happen to a ewe but it can be avoided if you reduce the overall feed intake and even cut out silage altogether, feeding meal only and allowing them access to some sort of roughage like straw.

I'll be feeding a 21pc soya-based protein ration to the majority of my housed ewes and an 18pc cob nut with my snacker to my ewes outside.

The ewes will get their booster shot of Covexin 10 roughly two weeks out from lambing (so mid-February in my case). Research has shown that this is the optimum time to give it to your ewes as it will maintain a strong presence of the antibodies in the sheep's colostrum. These are needed to pass on immunity to new-born lambs and giving it to them relatively close to the lambing date allows it to work more effectively.

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I've decided to crutch all my ewes this year. The new 'combi clamp' handling unit I bought under the TAMS scheme has facilitated this as it gently holds the ewe in a secure position while you can work away with the shears. There's no need to turn the ewe up.

Other farmers I've talked to have found crutching very useful. It means the ewes will stay cleaner next spring and when it comes to giving the lambs their first dose, it is not as labour-intensive and time-consuming as crutching should remove the need to dag them. Grassland around the farm has wintered well and it really pays you to close off fields in October. I generally cover most of the farm with 1 bag/50kgs of urea per acre. This gives the necessary boost to provide much-needed grass in early spring for stock and it goes without saying that the reseeded land always gives the best response.

Also with the slurry spreading date now open, I'll be spreading as soon as the opportunity arises and the weather allows.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

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