There is a shift in focus on the farm since the Mayo Mule and Greyface sale in Ballinrobe at the end of August. The focus is now on preparing stock for next year.
The saying "a stitch in time, saves nine" comes to mind.
I believe preparation now is key for the coming season. I started this week by power hosing all the lambing pens and sheep shed. I used an enzymatic cleaning product 'Glanzym' which destroys the biofilm in which disease causing bacteria and other micro-organisms develop and thrive.
This is a job well worth doing as I don't want a re-emergence of E.coli, Coccidiosis and other relating diseases to occur. Prevention is key.
The Mule lamb sale went very well for all involved. Prices were up €10-20/hd on last year for the sale.
I was delighted after a year of hard work to see a good result the day that counted most. It was great to see regular buyers back, but also to see new customers coming from all over Ireland.
The preparation for next year that I mentioned is underway in many forms, including the preparation of ewes and, of course, the rams for the coming breeding season.
I have given all the rams a once over to see that there is no abnormalities in their scrotum, penis. I have checked their feet and treated those who needed treating.
Rams are currently being fed a high energy feed at a rate of 1kg/ram/day to ensure the correct body condition score (BCS) of 4 at mating.
Once rams are out with ewes they will also receive feed once a day to maintain this BCS throughout the mating season.
The ewes are also being prepared. All ewes have been dipped and dosed with mineral drench and will get a fluke dose before mating.
Thinner ewes are separated from the ewes that have the correct BCS and are on good quality grass.
Ewes for culling are nearly all gone. I have some thinner ones still left and these will get a few more weeks at grass to make sure that they grade well in the factory.
On the back of experimenting with AI on my Blackface ewes last year, I intend to AI a third of the flock this year using fresh semen from my two best breeding rams. These rams will also be let out with other ewes and will be the fathers of a large amount of the lambs next spring. I found that the conception rates were good, I could use my best rams more efficiently, I had more even lambs, ewes lambed close together and many other benefits.
I booked my dates with Ronan Gallagher, who has carried out the AI on the farm for the past number of years with great results. It is important to have ewes and rams right for the day of AI and I have learned to follow the schedule for inserting sponges, taking them out etc. strictly.
The IFA and local farmers marched and protested outside An Taoiseach's office in Castlebar all week over the Commonage requirements that are needed for GLAS which the Department of Agriculture have outlined. An agreement that is practical has to be reached as the current proposals are not practical.
Tom Saunton is a sheep farmer based in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo