John Fagan: The later lambing date is delivering results

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John Fagan: The later lambing date is delivering results


Nelly Buschke from Germany, Maria Rocadembosch from Catalonia and Rachel Shimko from California, USA, feeding lambs on John Fagan’s farm in Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath. They are working and living on the farm as as part of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) scheme.
Nelly Buschke from Germany, Maria Rocadembosch from Catalonia and Rachel Shimko from California, USA, feeding lambs on John Fagan’s farm in Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath. They are working and living on the farm as as part of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) scheme.

It’s so far so good with lambing. The later lambing date is really suiting my farm. I am lambing the majority of the ewes outside and the triplets and singles are inside. I could not ask for better conditions which are in stark contrast to last year’s apocalypse which was like an Antarctic trek with Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean.

Getting the feeding right in the weeks prior to lambing is as far as I can see the key to a successful lambing. Not over feeding the ewes carrying one lamb and feeding extra feed to ewes carrying triplets is crucial. It is why pregnancy scanning is essential when it comes to sensible flock management.

One thing is for sure, lambing certainly improves your fitness levels.

My Fitbit, the new watch thing that measures the amount stuff you do each day. clocked up almost 20 kilometres that I walked over a 15-hour period. It would have been more only that I had to take it off to help out a ewe in a slight predicament and I didn’t want to lose it altogether. It’s worth monitoring your health and I am glad to be fit enough to carry out this work as you feel great after a busy day.

You would also want to be as elastic as a yoga instructor and as twinkle-toed as a ballerina to manage sheep lambing outside so it’s put me thinking maybe there’s an alternative income to be earned hosting ‘sheep farming health and fitness boot camp’. Who knows.

Grass on the farm is going great, I expect to do a bit of reseeding in May on 30 acres that was sown in Spring barley last year. Reseeding is important to do and more importantly it’s important to get right. Taking a soil sample is the first step in this and as soon as lambing drops off I’ll get the samples in so I’ll know exactly what the soil needs when I go to reseed in May.

I am getting my fair share of ewes prolapsing this year and I treat it by putting on a nylon harness on the ewe. I find the harness is a very good way to deal with a prolapse as the ewe can often lamb with it on and it doesn’t cause them any discomfort.

One thing I might add, is that the prolapses I have noticed generally are coming from ewes that have had their tails docked too short.

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Home-bred ewes

These are from the ewes I bought in so farmers should remember that there is no need to dock the tail of the lamb so severely and leave enough to cover to the essentials.

My home-bred ewes, which are Texel and Suffolk cross ewes whose mothers are mules, are a joy to work with. They are lambing down on their own with lots of milk and this is a reminder to me on just how important it is to breed your own replacements. The most profitable sheep farmers are the ones who breed their own stock and it is really worthwhile taking note or perhaps notching the ear of a ewe lamb from a ewe with good attributes so that you can retain her in the flock.

I had a visit from the TY students from Castlepollard Community College and it was great to meet such good mannered smart young people.

It’s always nice to show people what we are doing on the farm so that it is not such a mystery to them. Luckily, they were there to see a lamb being born and my pet lambs received a lot of attention.

One of their questions was did I always want to be a sheep farmer and the truth is I really do and in a year like this it’s the best job in the world. Of course, we have our ups and downs, it’s never a walk in the park but there is never a dull moment on a farm.

A farmer has to be many things, we have to be a biologist, an ecologist, a chemist and an accountant, a meteorologist, a scientist, an environmentalist and political activist, a veterinary assistant and even a psychologist but most importantly we have to just be kind to our animals and then everything falls into place.

John Fagan farms in Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

Indo Farming

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