John Fagan: We are leaving nothing to chance after last year’s lambing hardship

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John Fagan: We are leaving nothing to chance after last year’s lambing hardship


John Fagan on his farm in Gartlandstown, Co. Westmeath.
John Fagan on his farm in Gartlandstown, Co. Westmeath.

If you want to make lambing a success, preparation is key.

Getting the feeding right is probably the most important thing that you can do: remember that whatever about under-feeding ewes, over-feeding them can also be just as bad.

Get the balance right. I have all the ewes separated into various different groups – triplets, doubles and singles.

The singles don’t get fed any ration until roughly the week before they are due to lamb or unless they are slightly behind on condition.

If you over-feed ewes bearing only one lamb you run the risk of a difficult lambing so keep this in mind.

I have all the twin bearing ewes on 0.3kgsof their 20pc nut. I will keep them on this for the moment, moving gradually to 0.5kgs in the two weeks before lambing and when lambing kicks off I’ll keep them on the same plane of nutrition.

Also remember over-feeding twin ewes or triplet ewes can also lead to prolapse, so I cannot emphasise the importance of getting the feeding regime in the run-up to lambing right.

The triplets-bearing ewes are on 0.75kgs per day, and I split the feeding into two feeds – once in the morning and once in the evening.

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They will be moved to 1kg per head per day in the last two weeks before lambing date and kept at this throughout lambing.

The weather we are getting is something you could only dream of.

Let’s be honest, this is not normal, but I’ll take it nevertheless.

Grass on the farm is in a super place, I covered most of the farm in fertiliser and, in fact, some covers have had to be grazed because they are so heavy.

I envisage no delay in getting ewes and lambs out to grass post-lambing and I envisage lambing most of the twin-bearing mule ewes outside.

The only sheep that I will lamb inside are the triplets, singles and the ewe lambs. The triplets and singles are lambed in close proximity to each other as I hope to adopt as many as possible.

Pets are a pain. They may be cute and fluffy and students adore them, but they get to hand them back once they leave and I not only have to pick up the emotional pieces with these clingy pets, I also have to pick up the tab for replacement milk which is very expensive.

Adopting lambs can be described as snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

If you have yourself organised, this simple bit of husbandry can save you a small fortune and give you a lot of job satisfaction. Adoption gates, and supervision at lambing time makes the job really easy.

Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose with adoption, but it’s certainly worth a try. Getting the adoption done at the point of lambing is the most successful way of getting it to work, so supervision is key.

As lambing date is fast approaching I am also getting ready for my annual shopping trip to Vet Farm Supplies in Mullingar.

This is the sheep farmer’s equivalent of a retail therapy trip to Grafton Street.

It’s important to have gloves, lambing gel, iodine, tail rings, red lamps, prolapse harness, stomach tubes and lamb colostrum all at the ready for when everything kicks off which is inevitably on a Sunday when nothing of what you need is available.

Double whammy

What often happens to me is that lambing starts on the Sunday of a bank holiday weekend, meaning that you get a double whammy of being stuck for the few essentials you need to keep the first arrivals safe.

Last year I had everything ready but despite my best efforts we got a metre of snow just to make sure that nothing was ever going to be too handy.

The hair still stands on the back of my neck when I think about what we went through in 2018. It was a tough one.

Maybe mother nature is giving us this pleasant spring as amends for the torment we had with the beast from the east. Who knows?

To recap: preparation is key for a successful lambing, keep an eye on the condition of your ewes, have your ducks in a row as regards the equipment you need and most importantly try to have a bit of help organised for when things get busy.

I get a lot of requests for work from local teenagers who are fairly quick around the place and generally have an insatiable appetite for work if they can manage to get their noses out of their phones!

Stay safe and maybe even chance a bit of downtime before things get busy. I wish you all a successful, safe and stress-free lambing time.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

Indo Farming

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