Sheep farmer on dealing with a poor start to the lambing season

Once lambing got going it was full speed ahead. Stock photo
Once lambing got going it was full speed ahead. Stock photo
John Large

John Large

With lambing well underway the first lot of ewes are coming to an end.

We can sum up our performance by saying, after a very poor start we had a really good run from Monday, March 6 for a week.

The weather also changed which gave us the opportunity to get ewes and lambs out the next day after birth. Getting back to our bad start, the week before we were due to commence lambing we had a number of ewes aborting, as many as 24 over four or five days.

Some of the lambs were born dead, most of the others alive but too premature to survive. We took lambs to the laboratory but are still awaiting definite results.

With all the ewes vaccinated for both Toxo and Enzotic Abortion we would be hopeful that it may not be something that will reoccur next year.

To me it seems like a virus that passed over after a few days. The triplet ewes seem to worst. Going off their feed was the first symptom, followed by a high temperature and then aborting within the next 12 hours was the general rule.

The ewes were also sick after lambing and needed antibiotics for a few days to get them going again. They were isolated immediately and are now outside in a paddock by themselves.

Now for the good news, once lambing got going it was full speed ahead. Ewes were producing good healthy lambs and most of them with plenty of milk. With the help of a lot of good labour we managed to keep most of them alive.

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Once the ewe lambed she was placed in an individual pen with its own number. All information was then recorded on a card cable tied to the gate. The details included lambing difficulty, lamb vigour, ewes' milk and ewes 'mother-ability'.

This card was then dated and signed by whoever penned that ewe. This system worked well. When the lambs were tagged this information was easily transferred from the card to the hand-held computer.


If a ewe had three lambs and one was taken off to be fostered the pen number where she went was recorded on its birth mother's card so there was traceability from its birth mother to its foster mother.

This was probably the most labour-intensive part of the recording, especially when we had 80 fostering within 10 days. Most of them worked; if you could get the lambs even in size and the ewe with plenty of milk your chances were very good.

But if the ewe didn't have much milk we just left her with just one lamb.

All the fostering were done when the single mother was lambing. Wet fostering was very possible with ewes lambing so close to each other. It is a mighty way of getting triplet ewes out quickly from the shed.

Once one of her lambs are fostered, she can be treated the same as the twins and she is out in the field.

Labour is hugely important and I could not put a value on the interest, determination and ability of the group we had this year.

Some were there for a few days, others will do the long run of two weeks but all seem to have enjoyed the experience and learned something from it I hope.

Weather is always the unknown and it turned for at just the right moment for us this year. There is no need for 4-wheel drive and with grass cover good there should be no need for meal.

Some fields that were closed since November 1 are almost too strong for grazing but this is a good problem. Maybe it will be all needed by the middle of April.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co. Tipperary.

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