In a Teagasc Ovicast episode, Tomás O’Leary, a sheep farmer from Co. Kerry who is part of the Better Farm Sheep Programme, spoke about the process of picking out ewe lambs for breeding on his farm.
Tomás warned about being too selective when it comes to picking potential ewe lambs for breeding, and said that the process of beginning to pick out potential ewe lambs for breeding on his farm starts at weaning time.
He aims to pick out 70-80 ewe lambs, with the intention of ending up with 50 for the following breeding season.
Tomás added that he has noticed over the years, a big difference in performance from weaning to October.
He said: “If you’re too selective starting off, some of the ewe lambs may not achieve what you think they will.
“Some ewe lambs that may not stand out at weaning can do a great thrive between then and October, so it’s important to have a large pick to choose from and cull as you see fit as the year goes and hopefully, then you will end up with the best ewe lambs for breeding.
“Basically, don’t be too quick to judge as some of those more ‘marginal ewe lambs’, if given the chance, can do a great thrive and end up being fine ewe lambs when given time.”
The task of weaning lambs on farms will have already begun, or be in the pipeline to begin very shortly on sheep farms.
The ideal age to wean lambs is 100 days, or 14 weeks. The best quality grass available should be offered to lambs to maximise growth rates.
Weaning at this time is also important for ewes in order to give them a sufficient break before mating commences again in autumn.
Some ewes in the flock will be in poor condition after producing milk for the past couple of months.
These thin ewes will need adequate time to recover and regain body condition in advance of the next breeding season.