Farm Ireland

Friday 19 January 2018

With lambs weaned, it is now time to cull carefully


With all lambs now weaned, the ewes were all put through the crush and checked to see who stays for next year. We cull for any ewes with lost teeth, ewes that gave trouble at lambing, ones with persistent lameness and any ewes that got mastitis during the season.

We pick off very thin ewes and if these put on enough weight before mating they will be kept for another year. Usually they do not and for me the cost of keeping these ewes is too expensive. They have to be kept in their own group and when housed for the winter are first to get meal, over this period, they eat as much as a triplet and only produce a single lamb. The answer for us is to cull them and keep a replacement ewe lamb instead. All these cull ewes have been shorn, their feet paired and are put on to good grass. They will be sold as they become fit over the next two months. Our cull rate works out at roughly 17pc or 100 culls from 600 ewes. When you add on barren ewes at scanning and losses during the year the replacement rate rises to 25pc.

No ewe lambs have been sold yet. We await information on them from Sheep Ireland, so we know which ones to pick. They will be ranked according to merit and we must keep 15 from each ram used on the farm. The intention this year is to breed from all the ewe lambs.

Last year's hogget lambs were weaned this week and look like a nice bunch of store lambs. With five different breeds of mother all lambed to a Charolais ram it is surprising how uniform the lambs are, all with very dominant Charolais traits.

These lambs will be sold last, usually in January or February, off beet-tops or forage rape. They received an injection of Ovivac P which covers five chlostridial diseases and also pasturella pneumonia at weaning. They will get a booster shot in four weeks' time. The ewe lambs retained for breeding will get Heptivac P again, receiving two injections, four weeks apart. After this, all they will get is a booster shot of Covexin 10 four weeks before lambing each year.

I find it impossible to keep track of vaccine dates, and when you dosed last if it's not properly recorded. The way I keep this information is in my own diary. If you dose lambs, record the date then look up your product withdrawal period. If it says 14 days, I then go forward two weeks in the dairy and write in that I can sell from this group of lambs. Do the same with vaccines so you easily know when to give the next booster shot. With the diary also including everyday jobs being done, I find it useful to look back to last year to see what stage we are at work-wise for the year, how many lambs we have sold or what problems we encountered.

The year moves on quickly and most of our silage and hay has now been made. It wasn't a lot really. Just one paddock that had gone strong was cut for bales of silage and two fields on the out-farm were used for hay. These were mowed on July 20. The weather forecast is for an improvement in temperature over the weekend so hopefully we will get finished this time. Last year we were finished almost a month earlier. However, this year the crops are heavier and the ground is wet under the grass which takes longer to dry. We have more feed for winter, which we do not need, so next year a new approach will be taken, with less fertiliser on fields for hay or more stock. This will be in the form of sheep as cattle look expensive.

The next job will be the autumn cows calving. These cows received two mineral boluses a few weeks ago and got vaccinated to prevent calves getting scour. The calves will be vaccinated for pneumonia at two weeks of age. They all calve outside in a paddock near the house. They are in-calf to an easy calving AA bull, so hopefully they'll do their business with very little help from me.

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John Large farms at Gornahoe, Thurles, Co Tipperary

Indo Farming