Weather still biggest challenge at lambing

John Large used lamb jackets for the first time in three years in an effort to keep his new-borne lambs dry this year. Photo: Jennifer O'Sullivan.
John Large used lamb jackets for the first time in three years in an effort to keep his new-borne lambs dry this year. Photo: Jennifer O'Sullivan.
John Large

John Large

With lambing just about started, it will be all hands on deck for the next 10 days. We have about 12 ewes lambed over the last few days, with good strong lambs and ewes with plenty of milk. This tells us our pre-lambing feeding of the ewes has worked.

We have the singles on 0.4kg of meal, the twins are being fed 0.8kg, with the triplets on 1kg. The twins have being getting meal for the last six weeks. The triplets have been fed since they were scanned in early January.

We have very little problems with prolapse or twin-lamb disease this year. The twins and triplets are fed twice daily, with plenty of feeding space at the feed rails. We even put a trough into the pen to give more feeding space for the last two weeks as the ewes get much bigger as they come nearer to lambing.

The hay has also been cut back from four bales in mid pregnancy to just two in the last few weeks. The meal we are feeding is very fine in texture due to the mix of soya, maize, gluten, soya hulls and rolled barley. Whole oats is the only ingredient being fed in its natural form.

I was not over impressed when I saw the first load after delivery, but the ewes took to it quickly and have performed well. They can take a while to eat up their feed and drink a lot of water afterwards.


As ewes lamb they will be let out to grass after two days in individual pens. We have about 100 single pens so we can be full up after just two days.

The most testing part of lambing will be the unsettled weather, especially if it leaves conditions under-foot very wet.

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To protect lambs from the rain we will put a plastic coat on each lamb as they are let out to the fields with their mothers. We have successfully used this method before with the only problem being identifying mother and lamb, as the number on the lamb is not visible through the plastic coat.

We try only to let out small batches of ewes and lambs to each field every day which seems to minimise miss-mothering. All single ewes and lambs will be kept separate from the twins as all the singles go to the out-farm hopefully in April.

We have a snacker to pull behind a quad or jeep which should make feeding a lot easier. We do not intend letting out any ewes with three lambs. We will either foster off one lamb to a single or rear artificially.

We have some slurry spread on one dry field, but like most people have no fertiliser out yet. Ground conditions are just too wet.

So it could be a few more days before we even think of going out on dry fields. Since we are into March with longer days the chances of the land drying out improves quickly.

Our dry ewe lambs are on a diet of silage from feeders, along with fodder beet fed whole on a dry field that is earmarked for reseeding. They are doing okay but once weather improves they have a field of rye-grass to eat and that should get them going for the summer.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary. Email:

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