Lambing time in Loughgall
In County Armagh Jemma McHugh farms 255 ewes with her father Marcus. As a second year Agricultural student from Greenmount/Queens University, Jemma splits her time between tending to the flock and her studies. 205 of the flock have just been housed and a recent scan of 197% has shown 44 singles, 116 sets of twins and 36 triplets.
Lambing will begin on the 1st of March and will last for approximately a month with the remaining 50 hoggets, which are still outdoors and will lamb a little later. Texel x Cheviot and Suffolk x Cheviot ewes are bred to Charollais rams for terminal breeding while Mules x Texel ewes are used to breed the farm’s replacements. There is currently a 20% replacement rate on farm with approximately 40 lambs kept for breeding each year. The terminal lambs are finished off grass to the factory with the remainder being sold in the mart.
The new seven bay sheep shed (which is 110 x 50 foot in size) was designed to ensure that Jemma can work with the sheep by herself, and manage the increase in labour when lambing is very busy. Each of the six main pens have an exit gate on either side and one head locking gate to help with difficult births - also a feed passage on both sides and mesh placed over 16ft concrete beams and an 8ft tank - makes feeding and slurry removal much easier than before. On one side of the shed there are 25 individual pens set up for ewes and their lambs and on the other a new race complete with footbath. The remaining space can be used to set up a straw bedded pen for sick or lame ewes if needed. All the ewes will lamb on mesh slates to reduce the labour of straw and increase the cleanliness of the ewes. Once lambed they are moved to individual pens for 48 hours before going out to grass, triplets will be fostered onto single bearing ewes with the aim that all sheep will go out with two lambs. They are hopeful that they will average at least 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe.
As Jemma’s ewes have only been housed in the last two weeks, they are currently batched by breed group. This week they will be sorted and batched according to litter size - as concentrate feeding will begin next week - and vaccinated for clostridial diseases. Jemma explains how the concentrate feeding will be made much easier this year as they will be able to feed at all four sides of each pen. “Feeding space was always an issue for us as it came closer to lambing, but this year with our new purpose built shed we will have plenty of space to work with as we approach lambing.” Singles will be fed 0.5kg/day, twins; 1kg and triplets; 1.25kg of Thompsons Ewelac Nuts split over two feeds. Currently ewes are eating round bales of haylage but they will be moved onto pit silage this week. “We have just had the silage tested and it has analysed much better than last year,” says Jemma.
The McHugh’s started feeding Thompsons’ Ewelac Nuts about four years ago, and since then Jemma says she has seen a big improvement in both lambs and ewes. “The lambs are extremely thrifty when they are born with the vast majority getting up to suckle in a matter of minutes. We have also seen an increase in birth weights and thankfully our ewes have plenty of good quality colostrum for two lambs when they lamb down.”
The Thompsons’ ewe range consists of a range of rations to complement both forage quality and lambing percentage. It is important each unit is assessed on an individual basis and silage can be sampled at each farm to determine both the ration and feed rate required. The rations consist of a range of energy sources including cereals, oils and digestible fibre to meet the growing nutritional demand of the ewe both prior to lambing and in early lactation. Preventing issues such as ketosis is vital to prevent the ewe mobilising her own body fat. In addition, the Thompsons’ range consists of protein levels from 18% to 20%, ensuring that a balanced protein supply is given in late pregnancy to support the rapid growth of the foetus and also the milk production in early lactation. Quality protein sources include soya and rapeseed.
The fully mineralised range contains high levels of Vitamin E and Selenium which play a crucial role in immune function and lamb vigour. Protected selenium in the form of Selplex reduces the risk of white muscle disease and enhances the quality of colostrum for new born lambs. For advice on feeding your flock this season contact the Thompsons’ Technical Team on 028 9035 1321
Table 1. Feed rates (kg/hd/day) to meet the requirements of 70kg ewes carrying twin lambs.
Weeks pre-lambing Good Silage Average Silage Poor silage/ Straw system
6 weeks 0.25 0.35 0.5
4 weeks 0.5 0.6 0.8
2 weeks 0.8 1 1.2
Lambing 1 1.15 1.25
1st month Lactation 1.2 1.35 1.5+
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