Archive Article: 1997/04/17

17 April 1997

John Martin

John Martin farms in

partnership with his parents

on the Ards Peninsula 15

miles south of Belfast. The

65ha (160-acre) Gordonall

farm and 16ha (40 acres) of

rented land carry 400

Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a

small flock of Suffolks and

40 spring calving sucklers.

About 20ha (50 acres) of

barley is grown for feed and

for sale

IT IS ALWAYS said that silence is golden, but it is never more true than after weaning lambs. Our first batch of 110 ewes were weaned from their offspring at the end of March, and within 48 hours peace had returned once more.

Use of a creep gate allowed the lambs access to fresh spring grass while the ewes finished off the stumps of the forage rape. When weaning came the mothers were almost dried off and their offspring hardly noticed they had gone.

The ewes were examined for any mouth or udder problems and any culls will be sold after the end of the retention period. They remain outside to improve body condition before sale, while the ewes to be retained were housed with straw, water and minerals available. The first of the spring lambs were sold at weaning, averaging 21.3kg deadweight and coming into £63.90. Certainly from all indications, it is going to be a difficult year and we can only attempt to market as strongly as possible.

The March lambers were all but finished by early April with a reasonable crop. We seemed to have a run of single lambs at the start, but have finished up fairly well considering that we had ewe lambs and replacement hoggets in this batch. Many of these ewes and lambs are outside, but they have had some April monsoons rather than showers to deal with.

Last month I mentioned that our heifers had started calving with few problems. Well, I spoke too soon and we had to have the vet for three caesarians, which may be due to the new bull we purchased last year. On the other hand, we had a total of 42 calved by early April and hope to have only a handful left by the end of the month.

The sale of some late calvers last year has tightened up our calving pattern and will certainly make management easier this summer. The first 20 mothers and calves have been turned out onto some rented land, where there is plenty of shelter from mature hedges.

We ventured out with a few single punched bullocks a few weeks ago and although averaged 104p /kg, the price was down £80-£100/head on last year. The vote to lift the export ban for Northern Ireland beef has been long overdue, but hasnt resulted in great celebration. Within a couple of days the price had fallen, and now stands at 164p/kg for U3 grades. The strength of sterling is going to mean no return to profitability in the short term – a very sobering reality following our recent visit to the accountants. nMARTIN

March lambers at Gordonall Farm started with a run of singles, but have averaged reasonably well for the batch concerned, says John Martin.

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