Tipperary sheep farms are about to become very busy places as early lambing begins in the coming days. With just over 125,000 sheep in the county, representing just under 1,000 flocks, Tipperary sheep farms are gearing up for action despite the bad weather.
Tom Egan, Tipperary chair of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, said most lambing ewes will be have to be indoors until the weather stabilises.
“I wouldn’t like to be lambing outdoors at the moment. It would take too much of a toll on ewes, lambs and the farmer to be exposed to the weather the way it is now. Sheep worrying by dogs would also be a massive concern at this time of year – even seemingly harmless family pets can cause serious damage if they turn on a flock of sheep,” he said.
However, the Birr-based farmer said keeping sheep locked up indoors isn’t an ideal situation either.
“Disease build-up is a huge concern. Serious diseases such as toxoplasmosis are a very real threat, and even pose a threat to human health – pregnant women should never go near a lambing shed.
“But there is also a heavy cost implication to indoor lambing. The minute they go into the shed, your costs start to rise – bedding, feed, electricity, vet bills in some cases. In bad weather though, it is easier on the sheep, and it is easier from a farm management point of view also,” said Mr Egan.
Mr Egan said fodder is still playing an important role, as the low temperatures mean grass is scarce.
“We had good growth up until December, so we have been lucky, but it’s hardly growing at all now. A lot of fodder is being used on a daily basis, because freshly-lambed ewes need good feed to encourage milk production.”
Mr Egan said the major issue facing Tipperary sheep farmers is costs.
“The cost of feed, fuel and fertiliser has sky-rocketed, and the prices we are getting for our produce hasn’t risen, so our modest profits are being eaten away by inflation. The sector needs strong support in the form of Pillar 2 Rural Development funding going forward,” he concluded.