Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 April 2018

Trace elements ensure thrive

The summer has arrived and grass growth is still slow. Over the last few weeks we have been under pressure as the weather has been cold and breezy and this has meant that grass growth is well behind what we desire for this time of the year.

Because of the harsh weather I have had to continue to feed an 18pc protein ewe and lamb crunch to the ewes with the youngest lambs. I found that using this feed allows the lambs to learn to eat meal with the ewes and the lambs adapt to using a creep feeder easier than if the ewes were eating a pellet.

This is extra feeding that I hadn't planned for and is an added cost. As soon as I have sufficient grass for the ewes and lambs the feeding of the ewes will cease. I felt I had to feed these ewes to maintain milk supply to the lambs. This added cost is not desirable, particularly this year, as the factories have pulled prices so early. Perhaps this price will stabilise. Let's hope so as stable prices are important in a cost sensitive industry.

At this stage the first worm dose has been given to all lambs and will cover them through to weaning. In addition to the white worm dose I also dosed them with trace elements.

A number of years back we had blood tests carried out on a number of sheep that suffered from ill thrift. The test results found that we had mineral deficiencies on the farm. The main minerals that were lacking were copper and cobalt.

These are trace elements and are slightly more focussed in their functionality than major elements. I learned that a copper deficiency can be the cause of sway-back in lambs and since I started dosing for these deficiencies I have had no reoccurrence of sway.

The signs of a cobalt deficiency are clear as lambs develop scabby scaly ears and are thin. Cobalt works in conjunction with Vitamin B12 and is not held in the body for long.

There is the option of bringing in all the lambs every week and dose them for it. Since this is a time-consuming and a labour intensive process, the option of using boluses or using chelated trace element products such as Liquithrive is much more practical.

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These are slow releasing products and release the minerals the lambs need when they are required. I have used both chelated trace elements and boluses over the past few years and have found them to be very beneficial as the lambs continue to thrive throughout the year.

While the boluses are beneficial for older lambs and ewes, I think the liquid based dose is the better option for lambs as it is easier to administer and sometimes lambs cough up boluses.

I think it is important that the animal's health is correct in every way at all times to ensure they maintain a good growth rate. A good growth rate ensures earlier finish. The longer a lamb is on the farm the more costly that lamb is. The lambs will receive an additional dose after weaning to maintain thrive.

At the moment I have been busy with the sheep producer groups that I'm involved in, organising displays and sheep for this year's upcoming sheep events.

The Connacht spring show is the first of these and takes place at Ballinrobe racecourse this weekend (May19-20).

The Mayo Mules, Greyface and Blackface groups will have stands and sheep on display. This event will also be attempting to break the world record for the most people hand shearing sheep in one place.

I'm also involved in organising sheep for the Sheep 2012 event which takes place in Athenry on the Teagasc grounds on Saturday, June 30. This will be the main sheep event of the year, with a complete focus on the sheep industry.

Hopefully the weather improves over the coming weeks as this will make life easier for both sheep and farmer.

Tom Staunton is a sheep farmer from Tourmakeady, Co Mayo.

Indo Farming