Farm Ireland

Tuesday 11 December 2018

The rams have been turned out to the sychronised ewes

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Tommy Boland

Tommy Boland

The rams turned out with the ewes this week at Lyons Farm. This will see us with a mean lambing date of March 12, 2018. Our ewes were once again synchronised this year using progestogen impregnated sponges.

This results in a very compact lambing season and also greatly increases the number of rams required at mating time. The reason for this increase in ram requirement is down to the fact that essentially all the ewes come on heat in the space of 48 hours.

Under commercial conditions a single ram can mate up to 125-150 ewes in a season, though more normally in Ireland a single ram will be expected to mate 40-50 ewes.

With a synchronisation program such as that practiced at Lyons we use one ram for each 10-12 ewes.

The ewe lambs were mated the previous Friday. We find this works well, to have the ewe lambs lambing prior to the main flock for a number of reasons.

Firstly, everyone is 'fresh' when the ewe lambs are lambing and lambing fatigue has not set in.

Secondly, there is opportunity to allow fostering of lambs from ewe lambs on to the mature ewes. This option does not exist where ewe lambs lamb after the ewes.

Lambs are continuing to perform well since their introduction to the redstart crop, which is a hybrid crop of kale and forage rape.

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This crop was sown this year after harvesting whole crop cereal silage.

Volunteer cereals

This eliminated a problem we had experienced in previous years of volunteer cereals competing strongly with the establishment of the redstart. The crop had a DM yield of 2,500 kg DM per ha after six weeks and we hope to achieve a total yield of 5,500 kg DM per ha from this crop. This should see all lambs finished and hopefully carry the ewes right up to housing in early January. The crop is split into four divisions and is being rotationally grazed to allow regrowth.

Lambs are gaining just under 300 grams per day. The first group of lambs killed out very well off the redstart and had an average carcass weight of just under 23 kgs.

You would expect a higher kill out percentage on a crop of this type, due to lower gut fill, but this did catch us out a little, so we will bring our target live weight at slaughter back by around 1.5 kg for the next draft.

We have paid a lot of attention to controlling lameness in the flock this year, as we always do, but the wet weather conditions provide ideal breeding grounds for the bacteria that cause lameness in sheep.

This issue is well under control thankfully, and we don't want to handle the ewes at all for the next four to five weeks to ensure any embryo's (which will ultimately turn into our lamb crop) produced during the mating, have the chance to successfully establish in the uterus.

Assoc. Prof. Tommy Boland lectures in Sheep Production, at Lyons Farm, University College Dublin. @Pallastb email:

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