Tommy Boland: Ewe lambs deserve special treatment – they are the future of your flock – Farm Ireland

Posted: April 13, 2020 at 11:44 pm

Now that lambing is essentially finished at Lyons, we are focused on setting up the grazing rotations for the various groups of sheep we have on the farm.

his year we have five main grazing groups. These include the ewe lambs and their lambs, the 'main flock', Jonathan Higgins' two grazing groups for his research study and a small group of triplet-rearing ewes.

The triplet-rearing ewes are receiving 750g of concentrate per day at this stage. These lambs will be weaned onto a crop of Redstart in late May. The preparation for the sowing of this crop began last week, with an area towards the bottom of the hill sprayed off in advance of cultivation. This will also allow us an opportunity to reseed this section of the hill next near.

We run the ewe lambs as a separate group up to weaning to reduce competition from the mature ewes. We find this works well and gives this important group the best chance of hitting their mating targets in October.

The ewe lambs merit special attention because they are the future of the flock and should represent the best genetics within your breeding female population.

If you do not view them and treat them as such, then the question needs to be asked as to why they are being retained within the flock. Too often, ewe lambs are an after-thought; this should not be the case.

After a rather cool March, which had a negative impact on grass growth, growing conditions are improving across the farm.

In March our average temperature was 0.5C below average, and while this does not seem like much, it was enough to have a negative impact on grass growth.

Luckily April has been much warmer, with an average temperature to date of 9.1C, which is over one degree above the average for this time of year.


Rainfall in April so far is scarce, as it was in March. In March we received approximately 65pc of our normal rainfall, though this did follow on from an exceptionally wet February, which delivered three times the normal monthly rainfall.

Conditions are good now for grass growth and last week's sunshine was a welcome tonic for the lambs. Dry weather is a real catalyst for lamb growth.

This year we encountered a small outbreak of contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD) in the flock just before lambing. This is a rather contagious type of lameness, which does not respond to the normal treatments that work for foot rot.

It is a separate disease, but as we discovered this year, foot rot and CODD can be present in the same foot, at the same time.

Traditionally one method for differentiating between the two was the strong smell associated with foot rot, which is absent with CODD.

However, in our most recent outbreak we had animals with the symptoms of CODD and the smell of foot rot, indicating both diseases are present at the same time. These animals responded well to antibiotic treatment and the issue is pretty much resolved now.

The next four weeks will be focused on research to a large part, with the start of faecal egg sampling on the experimental ewes and lambs, lamb weighing at six weeks of age to indicate ewe milk production, and ewe condition scoring.

The main flock will continue in their rotation and we will also be paying close attention to the parasite forecasts for control of Nematodirus in the lambs.

Indo Farming

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Tommy Boland: Ewe lambs deserve special treatment - they are the future of your flock - Farm Ireland

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