Shearing is an ideal time to assess flock health

Freshly sheared sheep. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Freshly sheared sheep. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tom Staunton

Shearing is hot on the agenda at the moment.

We shear all our own ewes - these are done in manageable batches and often lambs are weighed, dosed and marked at this time too.

I'm quite happy with the body condition score (BCS) of the majority of the ewes on the farm. Shearing provides me with a great opportunity to assess the ewes' health. I check all for mastitis and other ailments. I came across very few cases of mastitis or lameness. The lambs were assessed too.

I look at how well they have grown to date, which ewes are rearing what lambs and what lambs and ewes are struggling. It is a useful time to identify ewes for culling and also to identify ewes to breed replacements from.

I hope to have all the ewes shorn in the next week and then move on to the other chores the summer brings.

I weighed some batches of lambs to give me a better idea of their growth rate. Wether lambs in general weighed that bit better than the ewe lambs across the board. I hope to have some wether lambs for selling shortly.

Some of the lambs are reaching 38-43kg and will be sold off shortly. All of these are Mule wether lambs.

I always put emphasis on the carcass traits of the breed as they make up half the lambs I sell. All of the wether lambs will grade Rs and Us, with less Us than Rs. The lambs will be weaned in the coming week and will be put on to the after grass from the silage ground.

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Lamb prices took a hit last week, but it's good to see them ahead of this time last year. Currently they are 60-70c/kg ahead of last year which is encouraging and shows there is an increased demand.

I made silage in the middle of June. It was not as early as I would have liked but weather conditions were not kind in the early parts of June and I wanted the grass to get some sun to ensure a higher dry matter. I'm very happy with the conditions it was made in.

Going on the amount I used last year, I'm sure I will have enough of bales for the coming season and I won't require a second cut. The silage will be tested before winter and from the results we will calculate what type of additional ration the ewes will require.

This is an important step for all farmers. We are all guilty of getting silage results and saying it is good, or bad silage, but not acting on the findings.

The silage test is pointless unless the results are used to draw up a balanced diet for the ewes.

This could save a lot of money on feed and will improve ewe BCS, lambing and flock performance.

Reflecting on feeding indoors and lambing indoors last year, I am very happy with the way this went. Feeding of ewes was made much easier as they were all in one place.

It was easier to keep an eye on ewe condition and health and ewes lambed down well with as much milk as ever. I believe that the BCS of the ewes now and the way the lambs have thrived is partly down to the feeding last winter and into the spring.

Lamb size was bigger and this has helped lamb growth too.

Disease was not a problem indoors, but I can see where it could be a problem. All the sheds will be cleaned over the coming months. The dung will be removed and spread.

The sheds will be power washed with a detergent and disinfected, and probiotics will be sprayed to prevent disease build up and help avoid disease resistance.

Grass growth really jumped in early June with a mix of warm and damp conditions.

All of sudden in some fields the grass was gone too strong and stemmy. I topped the fields so this should encourage new growth and a thicker sward.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

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