We've gone from having just enough grass for grazing to closing off extra paddocks for silage

John Large

John Large

With a great burst of growth, our farm has gone from having just about enough grass for grazing to extra paddocks being closed up for silage. We put one bag per ac of nitrogen on 20ac that was not needed for grazing.

This will now be cut in July, hopefully at least some of it for hay. We only cut one field during the dry spell for silage. This was excellent quality, but only six bales per acre.

These bales will be kept separate and given to the autumn-born calves. If the rest of the silage could be conserved in the same type of weather, it would cut down on the meal bill for next winter.

All lambs were dosed at the end of May. The lambs were getting dirty, so we took dung samples and had them analysed. The reading for stomach worms was 600 and there was also a reading for nematodirus of 300.

We were surprised to see such a high reading for nematodirus since this normally peaks in the spring with the first warm week. I suppose it is a function of the year we've just had that this worm is still hatching out so late this year.

Whenever the stomach worms are above 300, I know that I should be dosing. All lambs dried up quickly after the shot of Normectin, but I will probably have to go back and sample again.

Back in the old days, I would have just gone back in with another blanket dose, but with worm resistance on the increase, we are very careful to only dose when required. If the reading is still above 300 the next time, we'll have no choice but to dose again.

We are now dagging ewes and putting Clik on them to prevent fly-strike as they will not be shorn until early August. The lambs will not get Clik for another couple of weeks. They all got a mineral dose last week to prevent cobalt deficiency.

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After weaning we will give all the ewe lambs and the smaller wether lambs a mineral bolus. We find that the lambs need to be over 30kg for the bolus to be easily administrated.

This is why we use a mineral dose the first time. All the lambs will be weighed the end of this month and the replacement ewe lambs marked.

We are also involved with UCD where they condition score the ewes at weaning and other times during the year. The last time our ewes were condition scored was at mating last October.

There will be a huge difference in the scores this time after a very difficult spring. I think ewes are in a poor condition and will have to be well cared for between weaning and mating to get the body weight up.


This can be a slow process, so we are going to start it as soon as the ewes have dried up after weaning. The idea is to divide the ewes into two groups. The lighter and thinner ones get the best grass, while the other lot clean off after them and where the lambs have eaten.

When the lambs are weaned, we will put them a field of new grass-seed with a Typhon mix in it. I was up until 12 midnight to get it finished. The pressure was on because it was going in a little later than I'd like.

There were a few reasons why this was the case – rain and wind prevented us from getting the field sprayed in time. Then, when it was burned off, the ground became too hard, so we could not sow it.

Hopefully the high soil temperatures and rain allow it to catch up. Last year, the grass grew after a slow start, but no Typhon grew at all.

This was a blow since without the Typhon, the lambs were very slow to finish and we had to feed a lot more meal. I do not want a repeat performance this year.

The hoggets are cleaning up after the ewes and lambs on the out-farm. This group of lambs are the only ones with a lameness problem. I put this down to a very poor way of foot-bathing them. The system is plastic baths placed in a cattle crush and no dry hard core area to leave them stand after.

We are in the process of constructing a simple pen to one side of the crush which can be filled with water and zinc.

This way the ewes and lambs can be left stand in the solution for a length of time and we have an area beside with just lose stones for them to stand on and allow the solution dry into their feet.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary. Email: johnslarge@live.com

Irish Independent

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