In this week’s Farmer’s Diary, sheep farmer, Clodagh Hughes, discusses weather, swayback, mineral supplementation and vaccinations.
Well, what a chilly Easter that was, folks! I remember making a snowman at Easter as a child, and there’s an old Polaroid photo to prove it somewhere, but this is wicked cold weather to be out working in.
At least I was prepared for it as it was well forecast in advance, but it would cut the ears off you.
I felt so sorry for all my wee lambs out in these harsh conditions, but I soon realised that they were all doing fine.
Although it is bitterly cold, it is not a damp coldness, so they can huddle together or snuggle into a nest in the banks sheltered by the blackthorn hedgerows.
When I do my night-time checks, it is funny to see all the tiny, glowing eyes peering out at me from around the fields.
Unfortunately, I had to make a tough call on the two wee lambs that developed the condition swayback I mentioned last week.
My vet humanely euthanised them and explained in clear terms some aspects of the condition.
He also agreed with me that, due to the ewes carrying triplets, quads and in some cases quins, there was an insufficient quantity of the mineral copper available to all the lambs, most likely resulting in this Swayback condition.
Mineral supplementation in sheep
I asked my vet about supplementing the ewe’s diet for future lambing seasons, but he said; as they were all receiving good quality concentrates, which have added vitamins and minerals specifically formulated for all animals throughout their life stages, that it would be very difficult to ascertain precisely how much to administer to each animal.
And there is a risk of overdosing sheep with certain minerals that could do more harm than good.
Although I was very disappointed in losing these lambs, it was a relief not to watch the poor mites struggle anymore.
There are obvious issues that will arise when dealing with higher numbers of animals or higher numbers of anything.
You are bound to encounter more problems, different problems and one can but learn from these lessons and losses and strive to prevent as many reoccurring as possible and to accept that you cannot save everything.
With the weather being so cold this week, I have decided to put off my lamb’s vaccinations until next week, hoping the weather will be kinder.
My reasoning is that it can be very stressful gathering them in, catching and then injecting them. Sheep are funny animals, and certain stresses can have a very adverse effect on their health.
But, I must get these vaccinations done soon…remind you of any other situation?!!
Finally, I have begun spending more time with my aspiring sheepdogs. They got out to the field I have my pack of surplus lambs in.
At first, I was worried that they would be too rough, but I was amazed to see their natural herding instincts showing through. I will keep at it, there is hope for us yet!
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