Lambing was hard work with many long days and nights. But it’s almost over.
Our salvation was the weather: every day we were able to put sheep and lambs on fields with lots of grass and, above all, dry soil.
Although the days were harsh and the wind resulted in poor growth, the lack of rain was a help: sheep don’t like wet windy weather, especially in spring.
Due to the good weather, outdoor losses should be small. After the first weigh-in, which will take place before the end of the month, we will have a better idea.
Reviewing the lambing records, mortality was below 5 percent in the first 24 hours after birth.
More than half of those losses were due to multiple births, where one of several triplets was stillborn or perhaps the ewe was lying on top of one of her lambs.
We also lost a few individual lambs that may have just been too big and needed help giving birth.
The good news was that very few lambs died from diseases such as joint disease, watery mouth or pneumonia.
We are also tracking lambing difficulties and there has been an increase in the number of ewes requiring minor and major assistance at birth.
We had a lot of ewes that needed help because lambs weren’t in the right position – a leg wasn’t coming up or maybe just a head.
We also had many lambs backwards; these can be difficult to spot. Timely intervention is critical – you need observation and early investigation to diagnose the problem.
We lost a few individual lambs that were just too big – our average weight for individual lambs was 6kg. One was 9.6 kg. He was born by caesarean section – there was no other way for him in this world.
What we have learned from this is not to overfeed gravid ewes – we’ve just been too good to them.
When analyzing silage, it is important to know how much flour to give to ewes that carry several, but just as important to know how little to give to ewes that carry single ones.
Our average birth weight for twins was a good 5.2 kg; we don’t have to go any further. Around 5kg seems to be good for both lamb survival and the ewe being able to lamb on their own.
With an average of 4.1 kg, our multiples were a bit low; We would like to get closer to 4.5kg to increase the survival rate.
This year the triplets appear to have uneven lambs, with one being a good ½kg lighter than the other two. This does not contribute to the survival rate.
Overall the sheep were in good condition. Perhaps she had the good end of last year a little too well, which may have contributed to the ewes needing more than usual support at lambing.
All of this underscores the need to test your silage and assess the condition of your ewes after scanning. Then create a feeding schedule. Without this information, you are either underfeeding or overfeeding.
The main tasks for the next few weeks are spreading fertilizer for the silage and watching the lambs for signs of nematodirus or coccidiosis.
John Large Farms at Gortnahoe, Co. Tipperary
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/sheep/advice/john-large-lambing-difficulties-show-why-you-shouldnt-over-feed-single-bearing-ewes-41564463.html John Large: Lambing difficulties demonstrate why one should not overfeed calving ewes