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Learning from last year’s mistakes when it comes to flock health

In this week’s Farm Diary, sheep farmer, Clodagh Hughes discusses the recent heatwave, preparing for breeding season, and buying a new ram. 

What about that recent spell of weather, folks? I must admit that I am glad things have cooled down a bit in the last few days because the animals were beginning to struggle with the high temperatures.

Never mind the endless trips with water I had to do, but luckily heatwaves do not usually last too long in Ireland.

Another issue with the extreme temperatures is that the grass stops growing and is not as nutritious plus, the animals do not eat as much.

Therefore, my lambs have actually lost thrive in the last couple of weeks, and it is going to take another few weeks to build them up again. This means a delay in going to the mart and more meal having to be fed.  But that’s farming!

Breeding season

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I actually cannot believe I am planning for the next breeding season already.

Where has the year gone? But that is the reality of farming life; as soon as one season is nearing an end, it is time to start planning for the next one.

I have realised how important this preparation is in the last couple of years in my sheep farming career. It can make a real difference in the cost of products, being organised ahead of time with dosing plans or administering vaccines to the breeding ewes.

For example, there is a very important vaccination which protects the ewe’s unborn lambs against abortion that you must give six weeks before introducing the rams.

Last year, I forgot to ring my vets in time to order the vaccine and ended up being too late to give it.  This means I have to start the course all over again to ensure full cover for all my ewes.

But it is an important vaccine, so I must be on the ball this year.

New ram

I have a lovely new ram-boy chosen from the same man I got my ram off two years ago.  I have not picked him up yet as I need to sell a few rams I have here to fund the purchase.

So, what do you think happened last week? My pedigree ram Woody developed a huge lump around his jaw area.

Now, I had a sneaky suspicion of what it was, but because he is still a valuable animal, I got the vet out to look at him, and thankfully, it was, as I had suspected, an abscess.

The thorns from my lovely Blackthorn hedges are poisonous, not deadly dangerous now, but if you got a decent stab from one of them, you could get a nasty infection.  And this is what we think happened.

After the vet had inserted a sterile needle into the lump and had ascertained that it was indeed an abscess we were dealing with, he was happy to lance it and wow…what came out of the lump was impressive, folks.

Not for the squeamish. But it must have been a great relief to the ram. A short course of antibiotics, flushing out the wound a few times, and he is greatly improved already.

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