Farmer Focus : Alan Montgomery 12/11/04

LAST MONTH’S TB test hit the bar, with one inconclusive, this means we will have to wait a little longer to be free of restrictions. It would appear at long last DARD is getting tough with this complaint.

Another package of measures recently announced includes withdrawal of quality assurance status and a ban on movement, including direct to slaughter, for herds not tested within the required timescale.

Recent vet services post-mortem examination of the gut and intestines of the worm study lambs revealed an unwelcome visitor. Haemochonus Contortus was detected at levels which were affecting thrive.

This particularly nasty worm sucks blood from the abomasum – fourth stomach – causing anaemia and resulting in death in extreme cases.

Rarely found in Northern Ireland, it is more at home in southern England. Interestingly, it cannot be detected from dung samples, but it is easily treated with any conventional worm drench.

However, it does question the logic of using mob samples and dosing according to threshold levels, as experience has shown that individual lambs carry different numbers of worm eggs.

Continued involvement in sheep research with the Agricultural Research Institute brings me into contact with the five other farms. A body called Agri Search determines and helps fund the projects undertaken. But the best part is we producers have input which influences the work done.

Given our northern latitude and exposed fields, pure outdoor lambing is not the best option. We have designed a hybrid which allows half to be at grass during the day and housed at night, while the other half are only housed on a needs must basis.

Mating is under way to give a late March start to lambing. For the first time a Lleyn tup will be used along with a Suffolk in the easy care trial. I have selected heavier two and three-year-old Mules with a few Suffolk x Cheviots for mating.

This, coupled with greater control of grass supply in late pregnancy, will hopefully avoid the problems of oversized lambs experienced last spring.