In the latest Teagasc Ovicast episode Tomás O’Leary, a sheep farmer from Co. Kerry who is part of the BETTER Farm Sheep Programme, spoke about selecting ewe lambs for breeding, and managing yearling ewes in the lead up to lambing and post-lambing.

Last season’s breeding period saw Tomás turn out 49 ewe lambs to the ram, with 41 going in-lamb at a scanning rate of 1.5.

Lambing is well underway on the farm, with Tomás saying that the yearling ewes are flying it and have plenty of milk.

Feeding regime for managing yearling ewes

He puts the fact they have plenty of milk down to the feeding regime he implemented over the winter period, and particularly after scanning up to the point of lambing.

The single-bearing ewes would have been getting a flat rate of 0.3kg of meal, as well as some soya bean meal late in pregnancy, while the doubles would have been built up to 0.7-0.8kg of meal to the point of lambing, along with some soya.

Tomás said a flat rate of 0.3kg of meal alongside good silage is more than enough for single-bearing ewe lambs, as from past experience, lambs tend to get very big if fed any more, and that lends itself to problems at lambing time.

Furthermore, the bit of meal helps to continue with their own growth as well, he added.


The poor weather of late has meant Tomás has had to keep his now yearling ewes and their lambs indoors for longer than he normally would on a given year.

However, once they hit grass, which is now the case, they are managed as a separate group he said. Meal feeding is continued – at a rate of 0.5kg/head/day for four-to-five weeks.

Tomás said that they really need that extra bit of feeding, as they are under pressure, especially those with twin lambs.

As well as that, they are offered the best grass on the farm and not expected to graze down as tightly as the mature ewe flock and, instead, are moved onto fresh grass regularly.

He said that if you don’t give them a little bit of ration, that both the ewe and lamb(s) will suffer – especially if the weather is bad.

Creep is also introduced to the lambs after about three or four weeks post-turnout.