Small things make a big difference with lambs

It's springtime again, and lambs are frolicking.
It's springtime again, and lambs are frolicking.
John Fagan

John Fagan

Infection was the biggest killer of lambs for me last year. Watery mouth and joint-ill from a build up of bacteria in the shed frustrated my best efforts to save as many lambs as possible.

It was only when I examined my control measures that I realised what was going wrong.

This year I have begun liming the entire sheep shed at bedding time with White Rhino lime. Last year I only limed the lambing pens and this, as I found out, was largely ineffective against E. coli bacteria.

Instead of spraying lambs navels with iodine I bought teat dippers which fully immerse the lambs' navels.

It's little things like these that can make a big difference as every lamb is potentially worth €100. Lambing shed hygiene saves lambs and puts more money in your pocket.

In the run up to lambing I have been quite busy getting the pens up around the yard and bringing some sort of order to the place. As the saying goes, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. With a lot of the hard work done at this stage, lambing season should be quite enjoyable, albeit busy. I have plenty of lambing gel, gloves and iodine placed around the yard to avoid wasting time running around looking for them when the need arises.

I moved sheep down to the fields closest to the farm yard that were closed off since last October. It's good to see the mild weather helping the grass along and I can see the effect of the bag of urea I spread two weeks ago.

Having the ewes that are lambing outside close to the yard is handy because I can keep a regular eye on them. I lamb the majority of my mule ewes outside along with the ewes that are scanned with singles.

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The remaining triplets and doubles are lambed inside. Weather depending, I may re-fill the shed as it empties out.


My ewe lambs are not due to lamb until April and have to be managed carefully in the run up to lambing. I find that it is important to maintain their growth rates and not to neglect them as their bodies are doing a lot in terms of their growth and development.

I have the singles on 300g and twins on 500g per day of ration, along with high quality silage. Having attended the Teagasc sheep conference in Trim last month, I was intrigued how often we focus on the protein content of feed and not the energy values.

The ration that I am feeding is a 20pc protein ration with a 10.9ME from Quinns in Baltinglass.

The ingredients play a huge factor in milk production for the ewe prior to lambing. Happily, 18pc of my ration is made up of soya-bean meal, which is great for ensuring ewes lamb down with plenty of milk.

Over the last few weeks I have had a few abortions in the flock. These knocks and hiccups are inevitable but you do hold your breath and just hope that they are nothing more serious.

They are less than 1pc of the whole flock, but nonetheless I have sent some fresh samples to the regional veterinary lab in Athlone. I do not vaccinate against abortion and hopefully won't have to in the future. I will know more in a week when the results come back.

I passed my trailer test at last. The whole episode was pretty stressful but I passed and that is all that matters. In the end I reckon it cost me over €600.

The lessons did my driving skills no harm since the last lesson I had was probably 15 years ago.

However, I think that the costs of complying with all the regulations are a bit steep. I don't expect any massive regime change however.

Best of luck with the lambing.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath


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