Sheep Diary: Week One - Lambing and Breeding


Sheep Diary is a new weekly segment, where sheep farmer Matthew Kehoe gives us an update from the ‘front-line’ of sheep farming.

Sheep Diary: Week One - Lambing and Breeding

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  • 8 mths ago

Sheep Diary is a new weekly segment, where sheep farmer Matthew Kehoe gives us an update from the ‘front-line’ of sheep farming.

With lambing behind us for another year, the focus has now shifted towards managing this year’s crop of Jacob, Suffolk and Wensleydale lambs.

Fortunately, lambing went as planned, with little incident. The ewes lambed in two batches over the course of three to four days respectively. As I was away last year, and with college beginning again in February, the rams were only left in for 3 weeks.

Sponging allowed us to have most ewes put in-lamb in the first round of service, with very few repeating 16-18 days later. Surprisingly for our short breeding window, we also had very few empties, most of whom were old ewes anyway. We will repeat this practice of limiting the breeding season to only 3 weeks this year, as it has helped prevent lambing from dragging into February when I’m not available. I will also be slowly selecting for more fertile ewes.

At lambing, the ewes received an injectable worm treatment to combat the post lambing rise in worm burden. In our flock this gives a noticeable boost in performance, both in ewe condition and milk production. As the flock will be housed for a further month post worming, we risk selecting for resistance as the shed is effectively a worm-free environment.

In an effort to combat this, any empty ewes, rams and strong ewes rearing singles are left untreated. These animals will act as a reservoir for worms that have not been exposed to the worm drench and will dilute down any resistant worm strains when the flock returns to pasture.

The ewes are currently on a diet of ad lib haylage and 1.2 kilos of 18% protein ewe nut. To cut down on labour this year, I made the decision to sell any surplus triplet or orphan lambs. Thanks to online advertising, the lambs can be sold off-farm once they have received adequate colostrum. This was met with a very good trade for foster lambs and has also cut out the cost of milk replacer.

Undoubtedly there is a margin to be made on these lambs, but with such low numbers, the labour involved does not justify keeping them in my system.

Tune in next week for more from Matthew and Pedigree Jacob flock.

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