Farm Ireland

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Tom Staunton: Why I'm giving my ewes five-star treatment ahead of the breeding season

Tom Staunton with his pen of lambs at the Mayo Mule & Greyface Group sale in Ballinrobe Photo: Conor McKeown
Tom Staunton with his pen of lambs at the Mayo Mule & Greyface Group sale in Ballinrobe Photo: Conor McKeown
The breeding sales continue

Tom Staunton

A full year's sheep cycle is nearly complete as we start to get ready for 2019.

Most lambs on the farm have been sold at this stage but there are still some replacements for breeding and some wether lambs for fattening remaining. I hope to have many of these sold by the time the rams join the ewes in October.

This will free up better grass for ewes and allow a build-up of grass coming into the winter months.

It has been a busy few weeks with breeding sales. I was happy with the Mayo Mule & Greyface sale in Ballinrobe.

There was very high clearance of sheep, trade was good but it was back slightly on last year.

This wasn't surprising with the way the weather has been between the extended winter and summer drought.

We didn't see the worst of the drought but both events have had a large impact on farming throughout the country.

The breeding sales continue with the second of the Mayo Mule and Greyface sale in Ballinrobe and we have our Lanark rams and Bluefaced Leicester rams ready for sale next Saturday in Ballinrobe.

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The sale of rams for breeding marks the beginning of a new cycle in the sheep calendar as people begin to prepare for the breeding season.

I have begun to prepare my own ewes for breeding. They have been removed from a bare pasture and rougher ground and are now getting preferential treatment on the better grass on the farm.

All the ewes and replacements were plunge dipped last week. It is a job I usually do on the farm this time of year, After dipping, ewes have a healthier skin and are in general healthier throughout the winter months. I dip well in advance of breeding,

I like to have the ewes settled before going to the ram and I don't like disturbing them too much once the ram is out.

Ewes will all get mineral supplementation pre-breeding and must be sorted into separate groups that are manageable for the different rams.

I have pulled out 20 Lanark type blackface ewe lambs to be bred this year - these are the strongest of my ewe lambs and this will help boost lamb numbers next year. I bred some last year and these worked out well.

They were very good mothers and their lambs grew well in a particularly difficult year.

These were weaned earlier than they usually would to give them plenty of time to recover and grow for this season.

I find nutrition is key to lambing down ewe lambs. They can't be treated the same as an older ewe as they are still growing and are carrying lambs. I lambed them later than the main flock which had many benefits and it gave me time to focus on these for feeding and at lambing time.

It is a system that is not suitable for all of my Lanark ewe lamb replacements as many of the blackface ewe lambs need another year to mature.

The strongest of the wether lambs left for fattening are on Typhon and are getting meal. I should have another batch ready to sell this week.

Typhon has regrown well the past few weeks as has grass on the farm. I cut some more silage bales last week which will hopefully be enough to carry us through the winter and spring.

The next month will be busy but I hope to get to some breeding sales over the next few weeks.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo.

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