Family Farm

Jump to content

Developed by

Dublin ZooAgri Aware

Learn All About Sheep Farming

See the work of Irish farmers during a spring day. Look at lambs, tagging, footbaths and mountain sheep.

Spring

Springtime is very busy for the farmer as ewes are lambing. A ewe is in lamb for five months and the newborn lamb usually weighs two to four kilograms at birth (the weight of two to four bags of sugar!). Most ewes usually have one or two lambs a year and they can feed two lambs at a time. If they produce any more, the extra lambs will usually be adopted by a single lamb mother for milk. During spring, playful lambs can be seen frolicking through the grass fields. Fresh grass and mild conditions are important for the health and growth of young lambs.

Summer

Sheep have their fleece shorn once a year. Shearing helps prevent the sheep becoming stressed and uncomfortable during the warmer months. Sheep are also drenched in summer. Drenching is where sheep are given medicine in through their mouth to remove any harmful parasites. Lambs that were not sold in spring are now bigger and stronger. They are usually weaned from their mother and can fend for themselves from 12 to 14 weeks old. Weaned lambs spend the summer grazing in grass fields. Sheep tend to be prone to foot problems, even though the highest standards of care and welfare are in place for them. Regular inspection, treatment and trimming of the hooves (feet) by the farmer is important.

Autumn

In autumn, the ram (male sheep) is brought to graze with the ewes. The timing of their introduction is recorded by the farmer so that new lambs will be born the following spring. Good health of the flock is important so sheep are normally treated in autumn to prevent sickness and irritation. The main group of lambs are also sold by the farmer in autumn. By law, sheep must be tagged before they leave the farm where they were born. Their unique tag number is recorded and registered with the state authority. This is important for traceability and farm management.

Winter

During the cold, long winter months, the farmer makes sure that all sheep have enough feed. He will also add hay, silage and meal to their diet if they need it. Ewes in lamb will also get extra concentrates. Sheep have a thick fleece, which is warm and waterproof, they can stay outdoors for most of the winter. However if the weather gets very bad, the farmer will bring them into sheds. In early January, lambs begin to be born. Ewes are brought into warm, dry, comfortable sheds for about eight weeks before lambing to ensure the safety of both the mother and the lamb.