Thompsons’ Jemma McHugh spoke to the Walker family to find out how the investment in a new set up for lambing has reaped many rewards.
Just outside Scarva in Co. Armagh, George Walker runs a flock of strong, commercial, crossbred ewes with his sons James and David. Every year the flock size increases with the purchase of hoggets, but this year they have also decided to keep 40 of their own ewe lambs from last year, to make replacement hoggets for 2021. Having housed and batched their first 70 ewes – out of 220 – in mid-October, lambing is now in full swing.
The first batch of ewes lambed by the last week of December 2020 with 1.65 lambs at foot, although George thought that the scan results were not as good for this group as he had hoped, but on a positive note, he lost very few lambs and those born healthy, were strong and thriving. The second batch of ewes was housed in November and they are due to start lambing from the 1st February onwards and have scanned at 1.8.
Feed and Thrive
George always aims to make good quality round bale silage, starting with the first cut in the middle of May. From six weeks pre-lambing, the first batch of ewes that were having twins and triplets, were fed Ewelac nuts, at a rate of 0.5kg for the doubles and 0.75kg for the triplets, fed once a day, with the singles just getting first-cut bales. Once the singles lamb-down they get 0.5-0.75kg Ewelac nuts per day and George says that they have no issues feeding once a day at these feed rates, as the Ewelac compliments the silage well, as soon as they are at grass, they get 0.5kg per day. Ewes with twins get 1.25kg per day after they lamb – usually over two feeds - until they are turned out to grass, when they are cut down to 0.75kg. Singles get 0.5kg when they are turned out.
George has been pleased so far with the Ewelac nut this year and says that there have been very few issues with lambing and that ewes are holding their condition well with few retaining cleanings. Lambs are a good size and have been up and sucking almost immediately and ewes have a great milk supply which is half the battle.
Most lambs get tubed 100mls of colostrum regardless of litter or bag size, which ensures every lamb gets the best possible start. There are 33 individual lambing pens, which means that the ewes and lambs are not being rushed out, which allows for any problems or mis-mothering, to be sorted. After 5-7 days in the lambing pen, they are then moved into a group pen of 4-5 ewes and lambs, with turnout to grass when conditions are suitable.
Ewes and lambs were turned out for the first time about three weeks ago and unfortunately conditions got wetter and were not favourable. But George decided not to bring them back inside and kept them in small batches of 5-7 so there was more ground available for them to move over. Ground conditions are currently too wet for creep feeding lambs and they will start to feed the second batch of lambs from four weeks old.
The new sheep shed has given the Walker’s many benefits, including the ability to bring ewes in sooner and start feeding them, as grazing options run out quite quickly with where they are situated. The management of the ewes and attention to detail that can now be maximised with the new set up, as James is studying away from home at Greenmount, it means that George and David can handle the workload on their own, which is a great advantage to the smooth running of the flock. Since they have been able to feed ewes earlier, they have noticed an improvement in lamb survival rates, colostrum quality and ewe body condition score.
There are 14 group pens within the shed and they are all on plastic sheep slats over a 9ft tank, which can house all the ewes comfortably if required and the extra tank space can be used for storing cattle slurry. George finds the plastic slats great for ewe comfort and they now only use straw for individual and group pens after ewes’ lamb down.
The Thompsons’ range of Ewe Nuts are designed to make sure your lambs get off to the best possible start. Based on a foundation of quality cereals (maize and wheat) to maximise energy intake, and hi-pro Soyabean meal to drive milk yield and colostrum quality, the Thompsons’ range also supplies digestible fibre to maintain rumen health, optimal levels of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, plus additional vitamin E for improved lamb vigour. Speak to your local Thompsons’ representative for more details, contact us on; 028 9035 1321 or through our socials @ThompsonFeeds.
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