Tom Staunton: Good thrive pre-weaning is so important – and it cuts costs

Giving the lambs a mineral and vitamin drench at this time tends to get a good response

Seamus and Noel Bolger from Killedmond, Borrris, Co Carlow dosing sheep for fluke and worm. Photo: Roger Jones.

Tom Staunton

The main focus on the farm at the moment is to keep lambs thriving, and to build some grass ahead of the ewes and lambs.

Lambs are at their most efficient at converting milk, grass and feed into body weight when they are younger. This declines rapidly after weaning. So good thrive before weaning keeps costs down.

Lamb growth rates in general are back on the same time last year, mainly due to the weather.

A couple of ewes died from grass tetany last week, which is very unusual for our farm. ​

One of the main jobs lately was worming the lambs. Nearly all lambs have received their first worm drench (a white wormer).

I drenched them on the basis of the Department forecast and also by looking at the batches of lambs to see any symptoms. The youngest of them will be drenched this week.

Nematodirus is the main concern at this time of year and I will be vigilant, keeping an eye out for any signs of reinfection.

We gave all the lambs their first 10-in-1 clostridial vaccine and they will get a booster in a month’s time to protect them from diseases such as pulpy kidney and blackleg.

We will look at giving the lambs a mineral and vitamin drench the next time they are in. The farm is deficient in certain trace elements — low levels of cobalt, selenium, zinc and copper along with high levels of molybdenum — but we get a good response when we drench lambs.

Some parts of the farm are worse than others.

When we finish drenching the lambs we will treat them with Clik Extra to cover them for 19 weeks against blowfly — well into early autumn.

Some of the stronger wether lambs will be treated with Clikzin for shorter withdrawal. Using a pour-on in place of dipping lambs gives peace of mind, especially when land is fragmented and some a distance from home.

We find Clik Extra gives us great protection during the main blowfly season, so that’s one thing less to worry about.

This month we will be making silage. We will be a week to 10 days later cutting this year, again due to a tougher spring and fields not taken up as early. This is not ideal but we have to make the best of it.

Shearing will begin in June, with the ewe hoggets and rams up first. We are busy cleaning and greasing the machines and setting up an area for shearing.

We do all our own shearing and we have our combs and cutters sent away for sharpening. We usually mark off the good and poor performing ewes. It’s also a good time to give the ewe hoggets a mineral and vitamin drench.

I decided to put a management tag in any ewe for culling this year, so I won’t miss them again later in the year. I find it’s a good time to assess how well a ewe has reared her lambs and how the body condition is in general.

I’m looking forward to Sheep 2023 in Gurteen in Tipperary on June 17. I will be there with the sheep societies I’m involved in. Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo