Name: Matthew Kehoe
Education: UCD Animal Science student
Farm: Jacob sheep farmer in Co. Wexford
The week gone by:
This week was another week of university exams so I haven’t had much time to work with the sheep. The ewes have been left to graze out a paddock prior to weaning on Saturday. While we don’t restrict water access to the ewes at weaning, they’ll be left on this bare paddock for a few days to allow them to dry off. At this stage, most have already begun to wean their lambs naturally, but some may still be milking well and risk going down with mastitis if not put on a limited plane of nutrition for a few days. We don’t use any kind of antibiotic therapy on the ewes at weaning.
This weekend will be spent sorting ewes and lambs. The January and February born lambs will be weaned, split into male and female groups and then individually inspected prior to tagging and subsequent registration if they make the grade.
Most of the ram lambs will be marked for culling, with only the most promising 2 or 3 animals being registered every year. As the Jacob is a maternal breed, there is a good market for ewe lambs but with limited demand for ram lambs we finish. We send most of ours to the local plant only 20 minutes away. Any ewe lambs with poor confirmation will also be marked as cull animals for subsequent finishing. The remaining ewe lambs will then be sorted into those suitable for pedigree breeding and plainer animals that would be better sold as crossing ewes to produce factory lambs.
We will also be sorting through our ewes and culling a handful due to age, poor udders and broken mouths. There are also several ewes in the flock that will be marked for sale as breeding stock over the coming weeks. As we will be retaining more ewe lambs than usual this year we will be selling some 2 and 3-year-old ewes that would be suitable for pedigree breeding in other flocks.
The new rules announced recently regarding electronic tagging mean that all our lambs, including those that will be loaded here and unloaded in the lairage within half an hour, will require a set of EID tags. While I welcome the move on the grounds of improved traceability and animal welfare I find the sudden rise in the cost of tagging factory lambs is alarming.
Name: Phillip Crowe (Pictured Middle Below)
Farm: Sheep and Pig farmer from Ballinagh, Co. Cavan. A flock of 80 breeding ewes (Blue Texel, Rouge, Dassenkop, Texel), with 20 Pedigree Limousin suckler cows and a 150-pig unit.
For the first time so far this year, I’m experiencing some lameness in the lambs and a few green backsides -the lush grass and the rain last week definitely played its part as well as the mucky ground around the creep feeder.
I’ve tried many different additives in the foot bath the past few years with varying success - our local practice Breffi Animal Care ( Finbarr Kiernan ) have established a sheep club and as part of it, they hold a night where guest speakers address the different issues affecting sheep farmers. This year, one interesting speaker advised against trimming the hooves and foot bathing, instead, we were informed to just treat the sheep with long-acting Oxytetracycline . So as a bit of a trial, I put in the Rouge lambs and treated any lame lamb with Alamycin LA, while any with a dirty backside received a shot of Baycox (for Coccidiosis) down the neck. I have seen an excellent result 0% lameness the next day and no new case of lameness since.
With foot baths, I’ve reported some good results but you nearly always have to repeat in 2 or 3 days to get the lameness fully cured. A negative that I have found with foot bathing the ewes is the odd ewe getting mastitis after; whether it’s the soiled water splashing on the udder letting bacteria enter the teat or the lamb been put off sucking because of the different smell I don’t know but I’m half afraid to foot bath my ewes now .
It was good to get the Rouge lambs in to cast a strong eye on them - they always surprise when inside. This year’s crop is 4 weeks later than last year due to a delay in importing a new ram. The bad year with later turnout hasn’t helped them but they really are turning inside out this past 2 weeks. The new ram has bred a lot of muscle with less size than our last ram; they are still young by end of June I’ll have a good idea what’s what.
The week ahead
This week is the busy week on the piggery with our batch farrowing system, but next week the blues will be brought in for their 2nd worm dose and any cases of lameness will be treated. Anyone interested in a Valais Blacknose ewe and ewe lamb? I’m selling a pair!