Tipp sheep farmer finds genius way to keep bird damage to bales to a minimum

Painting baled silage does little or nothing to deter crows.
Painting baled silage does little or nothing to deter crows.
Tim Lawlor from Reenacreena having a cuppa at the annual ploughing match at Kilmeen, West Cork. Photo: Denis Boyle
John Large

John Large

All ewes were housed the second week of December and fed good round-bale silage. The ewes were scanned on December 31 which was almost 80 days since we inseminated the first lot.

The scanning identifies the number of lamb each ewe is carrying and to pick off late-lambing and empty ewes. We have 73 ewes to scan again, this will be done when we scan the ewe-lambs in early February.

We have a conception rate of 75pc to AI and a litter size of 1.92 per ewe. These are made up of 20pc with triplets, 50pc with twins and the remaining 30pc singles. The ewes are all divided into groups according to scan results and body condition.

After scanning our main objective is to concentrate on the ewes that need to be fed meal first; that is the triplets and any thin ewes.

Ewes offered the correct plane of nutrition during mid and late pregnancy will have an adequate supply of colostrum at lambing, and produce lambs close to optimum birth weight and with increased vigour.

The birth weight of lambs influences subsequent growth rate and weaning weight. Research shows that an increase in birth weight of 0.5kg can lead to an increase in weaning weight of 1.5kg.

Birth weight is also a major factor influencing lamb viability. Optimum lamb birth weight is influenced by litter size. Regardless of litter size, as lamb weight increases mortality declines but reaches a plateau at optimum birth weight.

The optimum birth weight, based on lamb mortality is 6kg for singles, 5.6kg for twins and 4.7kg for triplets. Our lambs generally weigh about 0.5kg less than this.

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We are feeding all the triplets 0.3kg since they were scanned and one pen of older ewes. This is mainly oats mixed with barley, soya hulls and a small amount of soya bean.

We have a protein content of 13pc which is plenty until we come nearer to lambing when CP will be pushed up to 19pc.

We will start to feed twins from the last week of January which is six weeks from lambing. The singles will only be fed for the last three weeks of pregnancy.

We have fed round bale silage since housing and ewes are in very good condition. Now we have 120 bales of hay to use, this is probably not as good as the silage. These bales are taking up space that will be needed at lambing so they have to be eaten now.

This year's silage bales have worked very well, being dry and well chopped. The ewes' intake increased, when the bales are chopped well and it is easy to keep straw bed clean when the silage is dry.

We have had no cases of Listeriosis either. This is possibly due to very little soil contamination at harvest and well wrapped bales stored properly with no damage to bales when being stacked.

Keeping bird damage to a minimum is also important. By putting grease on the top row of bales in the stack seems to keep them away. Any bales that show signs of mould are fed to the cows.

But will the ewes hold their condition when we change over to hay? If they do not then we will have to increase meal. We will push to make more silage next year. I know silage will be more expensive, but that should be our priority.

With lambs almost all sold, the last of the ones on fodder rape are getting 0.5kg of meal and seem to be thriving well. We will weight next week and hopefully we will get a good batch gone, with the remainder going before March 1.

The next job now is to vaccinate ewes with Covexin 10, which will be done in early February about four weeks before lambing.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

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