Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

We weaned 12-week-old lambs to give growing mothers time to recover before the next mating

After a very wet eight weeks, ground conditions have made grass growth very slow and both utilisation and quality very poor.

The ground is too soft for any topping or fertiliser spreading. This is having a big negative effect on the availability of good grass for our weaned lambs.

We did manage to top some dry paddocks about three weeks ago and put on 20 units of nitrogen. There is quite good grass there now for lambs but our next problem is determining where to go after it is eaten.

Lambs were all weighed yesterday. I do not have any information back yet. We picked off about 120 lambs fit for sale. The remainder are all over 33kg except for the few small ones.

I am happy enough with the lambs, and they just need a good month of kind weather for them to finish quickly.

We will not be waiting for them to get into big weights before they are killed since the maximum kill weight is staying around 21kg. All lambs are now weaned, with the last being the hoggets on July 7.

Even though they were only 12 weeks of age, we weaned them to give their still growing mothers more time to recover before their next mating. There was no big setback for the lambs involved since they've been on some meal for the last month and creep grazing ahead of their mothers.


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They are now on some good after-grass and are still getting 0.3kg of meal per head. None of the other lambs are getting any meal yet. We will wait until we pick off our ewe lamb replacements and access our grass supply. Only then will we go in with meal to all lambs for slaughter, and only if we have to.

The ewes will now be all checked, with any old ewes, ewes that gave problems at lambing, ewes that had milk only in one side or got mastitis during the year marked for culling. Persistently lame ewes will also be picked off.

For me these ewes take up too much time and too many individual treatments and will not be kept in the flock any longer.

Last year we kept extra ewe lambs, and when it came to letting them to the ram we culled off any that were lame. This has worked with very few lame cases one year later.

Our cull rate works out at 27pc, so we will need about 200 ewe lambs. Again these will be picked using information on their maternal status from Sheep Ireland.

They will be shorn in August and given a mineral bolus (Trace Sure). They are then weighed in October and those weighing more than 45kg go to the ram. The weather is again causing big problems since trying to get sheep dry with no sunshine is making a difficult job even harder.

To make matters worse, the price of wool has dropped back since last year's high. I wonder whether this is due to the fact that China is the only big customer, so there's very little real competition in the market. We plan to shear everything in August and hopefully the price will more than cover the cost.


Our last discussion group meeting was on a farm where 'easy-care' type ewes make up the flock. These shed their wool, and are very hardy mothers, producing good lambs. I have to say I was impressed. Maybe the mindset of us shepherds will have to change as it could be the way forward.

We still have some bales of silage, or dare I mention hay, to make. These paddocks should have been cut four weeks ago but are too wet and need a week to dry out before you could even think of going near them. Some fields on the out-farm, even if they were possible to bale, would not allow the bales to be transported out of the fields. I suppose one good thing about sheep is they will not poach ground. But we must remember that sheep will not thrive on wet ground. In a summer like this, an acre of dry land is worth a lot of acres of low lying ground.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

Indo Farming