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
REGULAR readers will recall that 12 months ago I acquired two new members of farm staff. One was a collie pup and the other a wife. Youll be glad to know that a year on, we are all still working together. I now seem to be making good progress with their training even though there was a steep learning curve for all concerned.
Looking to the livestock, the sheep have all had their winter scab dip through the shower dipper, prior to the rams joining the mid-March lambers on Oct 16. About a week before, one of the oldest rams decided he didnt want to play any more and caught a chill. Despite treatment and some swearing on my part, he seems to have decided his illness is terminal.
We had bought two Suffolk ram lambs at one of the smaller sales, so along with four home produced ram lambs we are just about up to strength as far as ewe:ram ratios go.
The remaining store lambs had been growing well prior to the cold, wet weather, but they have slowed up now. We may introduce some rolled barley with added protein to help them along if this climatic downturn continues.
On the cattle side, the vet examined the 28 heifers and confirmed them all in calf, with the majority due mid-March – the same time as the ewes!
While he was here he castrated a 12-month old Belgian Blue bull which wasnt good enough to use for breeding. I was rather surprised when he produced a cordless drill. After withdrawing each testicle he placed a pair of forceps on the cord and using the drill spun it round until it narrowed and broke. This technique results in less bleeding and was developed by a rancher in the US.
The 50 spring born calves have received their vaccinations against pneumonia, and by the time you read this will have been weaned. They will get 15ml long acting alamycin to get them over the stress involved and Ivermectin to control parasites. They will be housed on straw, while all the other cattle will go onto slats. The beef cattle will also get Ivermectin, but the in-calf cows and heifers a cheaper combination of pour-on and white drench.
We are currently being told of the need to present only clean cattle for slaughter. I dont have any problem with that, but some of the measures being talked about, such as clipping the bellies of cattle, are completely unreasonable. I only hope it doesnt take someone being seriously injured to bring people to their senses. Surely it would be much better to clip them after bleeding and before going under the knife. In a straw deficient area, where slats are the only alternative on many farms, we await a workable commonsense approach. *
The rams went in with the mid-March lambers on Oct 16 – minus one which has decided that his illness is terminal, says John Martin.