Sheep farmers can only be pushed so far on prices

John Large has a 620 strong flock in mid Tipperary.
John Large has a 620 strong flock in mid Tipperary.
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John Large

John Large

We have most of our March-born lambs dosed for the second time. We use a ivermectin type product and this should see them stay clean until after weaning.

We had some lambs showing signs of scour, but all these have dried up since dosing.    We dagged any dirty ewes the same day, and with none showing signs of blow-fly we decided not to put on any click for a few more weeks.    

We put all sheep through the zinc sulphate foot bath after dosing, there's not much lameness this year which is probably due to the dry weather and grass swards not getting too high.

The April-born lambs have all been dosed once, again with a ivermectin type product. We put click on the ewes and lambs in this group. This should keep the ewes free of fly-strike until shearing in late July.

We will wean all the March-born lambs at the end of June, we are not creep-feeding any lambs. We don't expect to have many lambs to sell at weaning, any that are fit will go straight to the factory.

The fields we cut for silage in mid May are due to be grazed now and will be ready again for the lambs after weaning. We have to cut more and these will get slurry so they will be ready for grazing in early July.

We do not intend feeding lambs meal after weaning, hopefully we can get them fit off grass only. If kill-out is poor we could go in with meal to the lambs over 40kg for a few weeks before sale.

We have a field sprayed off for reseeding which could be sown this week, we will just power harrow once and sow, there will be no ploughing. We would have sown Typhon other years with the grass-seed but not in this field as there are some docks that will need to be sprayed at an early stage of growth. You cannot spray for weeds when you sow Typhon.

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The two big stories in sheep farming at present are the introduction of electronic tags to all sheep and the lamb price collapse.

Whatever the benefits of EID tagging, these need to be passed back to the farmers. Further market access and increasing the value of sheep farmers' produce must be the ambition for Irish lamb following the announcement that all sheep must now have electronic tags.

Having used electronic tags for the last few years I understand its merits. And while having reservations about the increased cost, I believe that in the long term the investment will pay off.

I do think there will be huge advantages to the processors leading to cost savings, these should be passed onto the farmer who is carrying all the risk and the extra cost with tags being three times more expensive than conventional tags.

The other big problem is the price collapse over the last six weeks.

I know price has stabilised at €5.50 but this is €1/kg behind where we were this time last year.

Even last year our income was down by 21pc mainly due to the extra costs for feed during the extreme weather conditions.

This year we will be in the same place if lamb prices stay low. A few years ago (2016) Meat Industry Ireland put forward a programme which would see lamb numbers rise by one million per year.

That was three years ago and I think if the processors are not careful it will be fewer lambs they will be dealing with not extra lambs.

They must realise that there are other options for land. This year in our area a lot more silage was sold at cutting time to dairy farmers.

All the grass came from livestock farmers who either did not purchase cattle or do not intend feeding cattle for the winter. Sheep farmers could easily do the same.


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