Wednesday 20 March 2019

Keeping your lamb weights consistent is vital

Sheep

Footbaths every two weeks are advised by John Large.
Footbaths every two weeks are advised by John Large.
John Large

John Large

WITH grass still growing well, we have not been affected by drought as we got some rain when needed.

Most of the farm got one bag of nitrogen or pasture sward in August. The response has been excellent. Any fields not spread have been grazed out well, topped if necessary and will be spread with slurry this week. This should give the grass a boost and provide us with some fields to graze in November and December. It should also help to improve P and K status in the soil.

With the breeding season upon us, the ewes are in two groups. The thinner ewes are on good grass, with the stronger group cleaning up after the lambs.

All the hogget ewes have been vaccinated for Toxoplasmosis - this needs to be done four weeks before ewes go to the ram. One shot of vaccine will cover the ewe's lifetime, so it is very cost effective. This vaccine is 'live' which means you have to get a prescription from the vet before purchase and the vaccine has to be used within a few days of delivery.

We will give a mineral dose to all the ewes this week which is about three weeks before mating. All the ewes will be weighed the same day.

We are still putting ewes through the footbath every two weeks, picking off any that are lame and leaving them in their own group near the yard so they be footbathed every second day for a week. This is working well and when cured they are let back to the bigger group. The persistent cases will be culled.

This is possibly the most important job with the ewes before mating because if you do not get on top of lameness now it will carry over into housing. This will lead to a lot of problems inside and again next spring when you let ewes out to grass. We use a 5pc solution zinc sulphate.

Grading

Lambs are being killed every two weeks. We sold 135 lambs to the factory on August 27, with 111 of the group grading R3, 16 grading U3, seven grading R4 and just one grading R2. Only 10 lambs were overweight.

We can go on all we like about quality assurance, but I think my strongest selling point is consistency in the lambs' weight and grade. When the lambs go to the factory and 90pc hit the spec required, this is what the bonus should be paid on.

Having visited the boning hall of the factory and seeing first hand how lambs are cut up and packed ready for the retailers shelves, a lot of weighing and packaging is now being done by machine.

This means it's even more important that lambs coming up the line are of a uniform weight and quality.

I am lucky that most of our lambs are born within two weeks, so a lot of then come fit together. A compact lambing is important and weighing of lambs every two weeks is the only way of keeping your lambs at a consistent weight.

We also kill heavier lambs with a wholesale butcher and these lambs usually kill to the maximum weight. The one cost that has gotten expensive in the last few years is transport which now costs us €2.20 plus VAT per lamb. This worked out at 13c/kg for our last load.

With the cost of diesel and so few factories killing lambs, this cost will not change. I'm not saying that the transport companies are making a fortune, but it is a cost that may have to be shared by the supplier and the purchaser.

I wonder how much per kilo it costs to bring lambs from Northern Ireland or who is paying to subsidise them.

The real good news is that the number of lambs killed so far this year is well above the last two years. The good weather is a factor, but there must also be a good market for them.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary.

Indo Farming

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