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Farmer’s Diary: I can see my ever-elusive profit margins dwindling away

In this week’s Farmer’s Diary, Clodagh Hughes, sheep farmer, discusses weather, a lack of grass growth, weaning lambs and fencing.

I must apologise in advance folks, for I am still complaining about the lack of rainfall. However, I am getting a little worried about a severe lack of grass growth on my wee farm so far this year.

Although there have been some good showers recently and temperatures have significantly improved, the amount of rain that did fall was not sufficient to really ‘wet the ground’.

Any rain that fell was quickly evaporated off when the sun came out, meaning the roots of the grass plant are not getting enough to fulfil its moisture requirements.

Just today, I put out hay feeders for my ewes and lambs to supplement their diets.

The lambs are growing so fast at this stage in their development that they are on a small, twice daily lamb ration.

However, my ewes, which should be well able to maintain themselves on summer grass, are still on meal rations which should not be necessary on May 13th.

Not only has my workload increased again, but I can see my ever-elusive profit margins dwindling away.

One major goal this year was to have a good bunch of lambs ready for the market sooner than other years. This would mean an injection of much-needed cash funds into the farm and also fewer stock on the farm.

Basically, a quicker turnaround was what I had hoped for. Now, I am not saying these objectives are completely dashed. However, the recent weather and feeding challenges have made it more difficult for me to achieve this goal.

Fencing

In other news, I am busying myself with some badly needed fencing. I can manage the simple fixes, anything bigger, and employ the brilliant services of my willing farm hand…I mean husband, Alan!

We are actually in the process of fencing a new plot of ground that will prove invaluable to me this year. It is a blessing to have mature blackthorn hedges on most of the farm, as it means we can save a small fortune on fence posts by tacking the sheep wire to the hedges.

The only downside is the risk of getting seriously pricked to death by the poisonous blackthorns! Ok, ok… maybe a slight exaggeration there, but their thorns do have poisonous tips and can cause a very painful skin infection.

Weaning and update on Laura’s ewe lambs

This week, I weaned my oldest surplus lambs off milk. This means two things’ guys, less work and less expense. I am still feeding five for a few more weeks, though.

If you recall, my ag student, Laura, was taking three ewe lambs to rear on. Last Friday, I delivered them to their new home, and I was very impressed at how the whole family got involved in the fun.

They are a lovely clan, and it is because of Laura coming to my farm for work experience that I have met some really friendly, and like-minded people. I want to thank Paul, Theresa, Laura, Kelly, Conor, Shauna and Rachel.

PS: Don’t tell my lambs that they have got swings and a trampoline!

sheep, sheep farming, sheep farmer

Read more of Clodagh’s diary entries.

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