We need a spurt of growth for the lambs to thrive

Rare breeds: Exhibitors line up their rare breed sheep at Balmoral last week. Photo: Siobhan English.
Rare breeds: Exhibitors line up their rare breed sheep at Balmoral last week. Photo: Siobhan English.
John Large

John Large

After the last few weeks of cold nights and plenty of rain, grass growth has slowed down. We are not under pressure yet for grass but we could do with a good spurt of growth soon as lambs are getting older and starting to consume bigger quantities of grass.

We are dividing paddocks with electric netting and moving on after three days. This time last year we were getting four days grazing from the same area. The lambs have access to the next paddock, this gives them the best of the grass available, if they had the brains to go out through the creep-gate. We often leave a few ewes into the next paddock, this helps to coax the lambs in with them.

All the lambs were dosed on April 23 with a white drench. We seem to have got it right, just as the nematodirus forecast from the Department of Agriculture was issued and, more importantly, all dirty lambs drying up the day after dosing. Ewes and lambs were also put through the foot-bath.

We used a solution of 5pc zinc sulphate, again with good results. The dry weather helps the zinc to dry onto their feet after foot-bathing.

It is important to stand the sheep in a dry clean area after they have been put through the foot-bath for at least half an hour. This way the zinc sulphate stays on their feet and is not removed when they are let out onto grass.

Any ewes that showed signs of lameness were treated individually by having their feet paired and sprayed with a bluestone mix.

This is the time of year to keep on top of lameness and prevent it becoming an issue for the rest of the summer.

Untreated scald now will develop into a lot of foot problems later, which will result in very poor growth rate in lambs, leads to slow sales with a lot of lambs left at the back-end of the year when you do not need them around. Just remember the saying, "a lamb on three legs will not thrive".

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We weighed all the lambs the same day. The singles average weight was 18.9kg and when you subtract their birth weight of 5.13kg this gives an average daily gain of 309g.

On average the twins weighed 16.5kg, their birth weight was 4.2kg, giving them a gain of 280g/day. When you combine the two lots we are at 290g/day which is not too far off our target of 300g. They will be weighed again before weaning and we would hope to get them up to an average weight of over 30kg.

We have some ground sprayed off for reseeding. We sprayed 10ac using 4l of Roundup per hectare. This job should have been done a week earlier but it was delayed because of the adverse weather conditions. We hope to sow next week, using the min-till system. We will sow just two varieties of grass, Aberchoice and Abergain, with 2kg of Rivendil clover. We will also mix 1.5kg of typhon. This should be ready for lambs in early July.


Another 10ac, sprayed off on May 9, will be sowed in two weeks' time. Lime will be applied to all ground before sowing. The fertiliser used will probably be 18-6-12 at three bags per acre.

To speed up sowing we may use a direct seeder. This machine uses discs to cut the ground and places the seed directly into the soil. We could use this method a few days before spraying off, then apply lime and fertiliser after sowing.

We would need to have the field well grazed beforehand. The disadvantage here is you would need to mix slug pellets through the grass-seed and this is an extra cost of five euro per acre. The big advantage is you would have the field back in production quickly.

We spread fertiliser at the end of April for silage, putting two bags of 27-2.5-5 per acre. We have about 30ac closed now and with no real pressure for extra winter feed we will just take out any grass that that goes too strong for grazing.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co.Tipperary

jlarge@ independent.ie

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