Tomás O’Leary, County Kerry, established his sheep enterprise in the 1980s, purchasing ewe lambs in his local mart.
The Teagasc BETTER Farm Sheep Programme participant manages ewe lambs alongside his mature ewes. The Kerry farmer put 50 ewe lambs to the ram this year and has 41 ewes in-lamb currently.
“At weaning time, you go through the lambs. All the ewe lambs have a management tag at birth. So, it is very easy to pick out the ewe lambs; you see a coloured disc.” Tomás told Ciarán Lynch on Teagasc’s OviCast Podcast.
“I have different colours, for triplets, twins and singles. I pick out 70-80, starting off with the intention of ending up with 50.”
“From July to September, any time they are in, I go through them, weigh them, checking their condition and cull off a few each time until I end up with 50. The criteria there is to have them at the correct weight.”
Tomás aims to have ewe lambs at a target weight of 50 kgs at the point of breeding. He believes if you do achieve this target, “you are on a looser from that point on”.
Tomás lets Charollais rams out to his mature ewes on approximately October 10th and introduces ewe lambs a fortnight later.
“I used to use Suffolk rams on ewe lambs at one time. You would have to be there for every one of them lambing; they were harder to lamb.”
“Whereas with the Charollais, it is no bother. Often, I am not there with them because there are other jobs out in the field. The mature ewes are six, and the ewe lambs are four weeks, with the ram.” added O’Leary, who is satisfied with this year’s scanning rate.
Tomás believes having an adequate feeding programme coming up to lambing season is imperative on his sheep enterprise.
“The singles get 300 grams of ration from when they are houses right up along. The doubles got the same up until they were scanned. When they were scanned, the doubles would be up at 0.7-0.8kg at this stage.”
“They are being topped up with a small bit of soya as well, which is a big help for beestings, starting out giving the lambs a great boost when they are born.”
Tomás found that he was running into problems with ewes accepting their lamb(s) if having to assist a ewe lamb during lambing. He feels if you can let them “do their thing”, they bond with progeny better.
Turn out and creep feeding
Tomás has not put any of his ewes out to grass yet, due to weather conditions this year.
“I would be hoping the ones that have lambed will be going out in the next day or two. The rest, as they lamb, will be going out after a couple of days, weather permitting.”
He continues to give ewes half-a-kilogram of concentrate a day outside for approximately four to five weeks.
“They need that extra bit; they are under pressure, especially if they have twins. If you do not give them the bit of ration, the lamb will suffer, and the ewe will suffer, especially if the weather is anyway bad.”
“The lambs then would be introduced to creep after three or four weeks. They will not eat a whole lot of it to start, but it is there for them. As the weeks go on, they will start eating it.”
Tomás commented on twin lambs, access to grass, inclement weather conditions and his weaning strategy. “They would get the best grass and would not be left to graze down the 4cm. They would be moved on.”
“They always have grass and ration. If there is bad weather, they are given the more sheltered fields. The ewe lambs would struggle; they have to be kept as a separate group.”
“The ewe lambs are weaned at the same time as the mature ewes. The lambs would be a couple of weeks younger. The main reason for that being to give the ewe lamb a chance to build up condition for going back in lamb again in the autumn.”
Ewe lambs’ condition
Tomás acknowledges that ewe lamb’s condition will somewhat suffer if they have twin lambs at weaning time. Therefore, he believes they require additional time to build on the condition again.
“I find the mature ewes at weaning time their cover/condition is quite good. Some of the ewe-lambs they do need the extra bit of care and attention from weaning time on.”
“She [a ewe lamb] is working the whole time from when she lambs. She is still not a mature animal, is under pressure and needs to be minded right through from day one,” Tomás concluded.
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