In this week’s Farmer’s Diary, sheep farmer, Clodagh Hughes, discusses working with animals, weaning and drafting lambs, and not feeding concentrates.
The past week has been relatively quiet here on my wee farm. And when I say, ‘relatively quiet’, I mean; there have been no big dramas to report.
I am quietly basking in the knowledge that I must be doing something right as a shepherd, and after overcoming a few unforeseen personal and farm-related challenges earlier in the year.
I can now gaze out at my stock as they graze contentedly in the fields and feel a certain amount of pride in my achievements to date.
We are custodians of the land and carers of the animals we keep. There is so much more to farming than some may be aware of.
Almost any career in agriculture can be viewed as a vocation due to the personal and professional sacrifices involved to make it a success. From my own personal experiences, livestock farming, in particular, requires a big commitment.
I am obviously biased, but I believe working with animals is on a slightly different level due, in part, to the fact that you, as the livestock keeper, are responsible for and, more often than not, at the behest of the animals.
Now, folks, I am by no means complaining here because, despite any negatives, I may encounter while pursuing my farming enterprise, I am the type of person that will undertake any challenge head-on and give it my best shot.
I never proclaim to ‘know it all’ and will always seek advice on any issue I am unsure of.
Yes, I have made mistakes; I am only human. But, the secret is to learn from these mistakes and not repeat them.
I ask questions and draw on any resources available to me, be it; other more experienced farmers, my lovely vets, books and, of course, more modern aids such as the internet and social media forums.
Weaning and drafting
I suppose I better discuss some actual farming now; next up is weaning and drafting of my lambs.
Drafting in sheep terms means; dividing the lambs into groups of those that are nearing mart weights, identifying my best ewe lambs to keep as replacement breeders and, separating ewe and ram lambs to ensure no unwanted ‘accidents’ occur as they reach puberty.
With my increased acreage this year, I am well able to stock the extra animals I have and allocate paddocks to each bunch.
As I have had an abundance of grass so far, I have not had to supplement their diets with concentrates.
This has reduced my labour workload and the expense of my already struggling budget! I will be looking to start giving a small meal ration to each group of lambs to help them along.
Moreover, I could have implemented this before now, but with the cost of sheep meal, I have been happy to let them graze on good grass with a good mineral lick, and my vet prescribed a mineral and vitamin supplement dose.
I am waiting for the weather to improve so that I can get a few acres baled for winter fodder. I hope I am not waiting too long!