The big question now is what to do with the ewe lambs for the next year?

Pictured at an open day in Clonakilty Agricultural College are Clonakilty Community College pupils Jamie Hurley, Jason McCarthy & Steven O'Brien. Photo O'Gorman Photography.
Pictured at an open day in Clonakilty Agricultural College are Clonakilty Community College pupils Jamie Hurley, Jason McCarthy & Steven O'Brien. Photo O'Gorman Photography.
John Large

John Large

By the time this article appears, all our ewes will have been serviced by AI. How quickly a year goes. We served 330 ewes on October 12 and the remaining 310 four days later.

Just like the last five years, all ewes were sponged 14 days previously, had the sponges removed after 12 days before they were given 400 units of PMSG.

They are then housed 24 hours before insemination with no food or water available.

This year five breeds of ram were used: Suffolk, Texel, Belclare, Charallois and Vendeen. The rams are all in the top 10pc of their breed.

After the ewes are inseminated we divide them into three groups according to breed. This way we can let out the rams to pick up the repeat ewes.

We can put Suffolk rams with the Belclare cross ewes, Charallois with Suffolk ewes, and Texel with Vendeen and Charallois ewes.

There will be no disturbing the ewes, with the rams just dropped off to each group.

Raddle paste will be applied to the ram's chest, starting with a light colour, and this colour will be changed every 10 days. We hope to use three rams per 200 ewes and have a few spares for when required. Rams will be let out on October 27 for 34 days.

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Now for the burning question of what to do with ewe lambs. Do we breed them or leave them dry for the first year?

After a good year of grass-growth, our ewe lambs are strong, with a lot of them over 50kg.

A ewe lamb should be at least 60pc of her mature weight when joining the ram.

With our average mature weight being 75kg the ewe lambs are definitely heavy enough.

So our plan is to put half of them (80) to the ram.

Our aim is to try to get them to lamb compactly over a short lambing period. So 40 ewe lambs were sponged on Monday, October 13 and another 40 on Monday, October 20. Rams will be introduced on October 27 to the first lot, and the second lot one week later.

The first lot will coincide with ram-turnout to the repeat ewes. We do not intend to let rams back to any ewe lambs that repeat.

The reasons for sponging in two lots are, firstly. maybe we would have too many of them lambing together. Secondly, we don't have enough rams to allow 10 ewe lambs per mature ram. We will use all Charallois rams.

With the repeat ewes lambing at the same time we should be able to cross-foster some of the multiple births from the ewe lambs on to mature ewes. The objective being to try to let most of the ewe lambs rear one lamb only.

We are aiming for compact mating which should mean a short lambing spread. But we need to keep ewe lambs gaining weight throughout pregnancy.

This is a new venture for us and I will keep an ongoing update of the progress.

We have about 75pc of our ewe lambs sold with more going next week. Only a few small lambs are getting meal.

Now that the typhon is all nearly finished we will introduce meal to the most forward lambs to the get them away in early November.


The remainder will be removed from the grazing area and put on fodder rape which was sown in early September. This crop has grown very well and should be fit to graze by mid November.

It should finish off most of the remaining lambs, along with a small amount of meal. With the lamb kill to date running ahead of last year, we could see a price rise between now and Christmas.

Ewes have plenty of grass, the only problem is getting them to graze down paddocks so that we can close up for next spring. A few paddocks with high cover may have to be block grazed.

We will leave these until some of the higher covers have been grazed out well because we need somewhere to spread farmyard manure before the end of the month.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary

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