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Lambing review and planning ahead in the South East

Tim & Richard Sheil farm in partnership with their parents Terry & Olwen at Coolree, near Kiltealy on the Wexford/Carlow border in the shadow of the Blackstairs Mountain. James Doran, Teagasc advisor reviews how lambing went and takes a look at grazing season plans

Lambing review

The ewe flock of approx. 261 began lambing on 19th March as planned and lambing was quite compact with all ewes lambed within a 5 week period. Lambing itself went pretty well with no major issues or disease outbreaks. In all 48 lambs were lost during the lambing season which represents a 10% loss from scanning. The target for relatively high litter sizes would be to keep this figure under 12%. All ewes were vaccinated for toxoplasmosis prior to going to ram after issues in previous years with some ewes aborting. Richard commented “I’m delighted that we took the decision to vaccinate for toxoplasmosis after getting a positive diagnosis during last year’s lambing. Mortality was greatly reduced and lambing difficulty seemed to be reduced also”

With the straw blower in use regularly during the housing period, supplying adequate bedding was a much easier task for both lambing pens and group pens. As a result this tended to happen more frequently and very good hygiene was practiced in all pens throughout the housing season. This appeared to help with health issues also. Tim commented “Ewes were good on their feet prior to housing and that carried right through until turnout. All individual lambing pens were cleaned out after each ewe also. Definitely being generous with the straw during the housing/lambing period has worked really well”. 150 bales of barley straw are already in reserve on the farm from last year’s harvest so very little additional straw will be required for next winter which will hopefully allow for additional straw sales in 2022

Grazing management

Ewes and lambs are currently grazing in 4 smaller groups but will be put into larger groups this week to help put grazing pressure on fields/paddocks and aid grass management with the plan to move sheep groups on from each paddock/field after 3-4 days grazing to help maximise grass regrowth’s. Currently there are approx. 18 days grazing ahead on the farm. There is no meal being fed to the lambs at present and depending on grass supply and performance later in the grazing season, a finishing group of lambs may be assembled to help target meal to more forward lambs which will help keep concentrate supplementation to a minimum which maximising conversion rates. With a mean lambing date of April 1st, lambs will be treated for Nematodirus worms this week also. Lambs will also receive a treatment for coccidia and receive their first clostridial vaccinaction.

Silage plans

Grass growth has really taken off on the farm recently and 14 acres of first cut silage is planned for 25th May. The plan is to harvest approx. 8 bales/ac of high quality silage in the region of 75 DMD. Some second cut may also be planned later in the season to safeguard winter fodder. After doing a fodder budget, Tim & Richard estimate that they need approximately 200 bales of silage to be comfortable for next winter. This is based on every 100 ewes requiring approx. 20 bales of silage fresh weight per month. There are also 60 bales of hay on the farm as a buffer if required.

27 pet lambs are also being reared artificially. They have recently been weaned of milk replacer and are now on ad-lib meal. Previously these lambs once weaned from milk replacer would have been let out to grass and sold later in the season but lamb performance at grass in this system was variable. This year the decision has been made to finish them indoors on ad-lib meal and hopefully cash in on a high lamb price in the not too distant future. The vast majority of hoggets carried on the catch crops following the farm's tillage enterprise have now been slaughtered with typical carcass weights from 21.5 to 23kgs which would represent an average kill out % of approx. 46% across male and female lambs 


Shearing of the ewes is also planned shortly and in conjunction with this annual chore, the lambs will receive a treatment of Clik extra to give 19 weeks protection against flystrike. This method of flystrike prevention is carried out annually on the farm and generally provides the level of cover suggested which gives great peace of mind when Tim & Richard are working off farm.

Grazing ground

All grazing fields have received 1 bag of 18-6-12/ac and ½ bag of protected urea/ac to date. If grazing days ahead continue to increase, some paddocks may be removed as surplus bales in conjunction with the main first cut next week. Some reseeding is also planned in the coming weeks.

Worm control

As lambs start to consume more grass in the coming weeks, attention will turn to controlling gut worms which has thrown up some questions in the past regarding resistance to certain anthelminthic groups. It is planned to carry out a faecal egg reduction test on different wormers to establish what is working well on the farm and then come up with a plan to safeguard it efficacy into the future.

The Teagasc Sheep Specialists and Researchers issue an article on a topic of interest to sheep farmers on Tuesdays here on Teagasc Daily. Find more on Teagasc Sheep here.  Teagasc advisors also regularly provide articles of interest on Teagasc Daily. For any further information or assistance contact your local Teagasc Office here: Advisory Regions