As always in January, with the start of the new year, I have been spending a good bit of time in the farm office filling out a number of paper exercises.
First up was the national sheep census, which required us to take a count of the sheep and their age categories on 31 December. These forms must be returned to the Department by 31 January and are the basis for our stocking rate for the Sheep Welfare Scheme.
So, if any of you haven’t filled yours in yet, there still is time to complete it before the due date. Next is the task of filling out a profit monitor for the farm. I fill one of these out every year and find it really useful in helping to identify areas in which I can improve farm financial performance.
There is no point just throwing in any old figure. For this to work properly, you must spend time filling in the form as accurately as possible. It will help in any decisions regarding the future direction the farm will need to go to be profitable.
The biggest issue I have with it, though, is that the profit is per hectare and not per hour worked. In my mind, this is a better way to look at it, as someone who maybe has a very efficient system will work far less hours than someone who is inefficient in how they manage the farm, resulting in a better return per hour worked. Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean a profit is being made.
We scanned the first two batches of ewes over the last number of weeks. With a scan of two lambs per ewe in each group, you couldn’t ask for better.
These, however, are only the ewes that held to the first service in the breeding season, with the repeats separated into a different mob to be scanned later this month. Once these are scanned, I will have a better handle on how the crop size is looking for the spring and how the different breeding groups have performed.
The ewes that have been scanned are now housed, along with the repeats, but the dry hoggets will remain outside grazing on rape for now. This year, I will continue to use a total mixed ration (TMR) when feeding the ewes over the housing period. This worked extremely well last year in reducing the workload involved with feeding, along with the stress on animals and myself at feeding time.
I will, however, have to keep a close eye on the ewes’ condition scores, as if a ewe has gone off her feed for any reason, it can be a bit trickier to pick up compared to the traditional feeding of meal.
I have also tested the silage quality in order to formulate my feeding programme.
I am very happy with this year’s silage, as it ranges from 72 to 79.6 DMD. I will hold the best-quality silage for feeding in the last month of gestation of the ewes.
I plan on purchasing my 10-in-one vaccine and a fluke dose for the ewes now, as I will be starting to vaccinate the first groups before the end of this month, with the rest vaccinated next month. The ewe lambs will be getting two shots, so I will start vaccinating them early this month and then again later in February, to make sure they have been vaccinated properly for the next year. Plenty to keep me busy and at home over the next few weeks.