James McCay – Drumquin, Co Tyrone

Lambing started around St Patrick’s Day for James, with his crossbred ewes the first animals to lamb on-farm.

The flock had 274 ewes scanned in lamb in January at 147%, with breeding females split evenly between the crossbred and hill flocks.

With lambing now moving into its fourth week, the bulk of the crossbred ewes are now lambed. As of the weekend, there were 25 crossbred ewes still to lamb.

Despite the return of winter-like weather over the Easter period, all ewes and lambs are out at grass. Ewes have been turned out once lambs are three to four days old.

The snow on Easter Monday and Tuesday held up turning ewes out to grass for a few days.

Thankfully, James had adequate housing space to hold stock inside for a few extra days, as lambing of crossbred ewes comes to an end.


Silage was being fed outside to ewes and lambs because of the weather.

But this was stopped last Thursday, as ewes were batched into larger groups and moved to better grazing on silage ground.

Concentrates are still being fed to ewes outside, to drive milk production and ease the demand on grass.

The Blackface ewes started lambing late last week and are also lambing inside before going back to grass.

Urea was applied to grassland during the first week of March and there has been a noticeable growth response to nitrogen applied.

Clement Lynch – Park, Co Derry

Lambing started on Sunday 28 March on Clement’s farm. Like the other upland and hill farms in the programme, Clement runs two flocks on-farm, with crossbred ewes grazing improved grassland and Blackface ewes grazing on the mountain.

Crossbred ewes are the first animals to lamb, with close on 350 breeding females in this group and a further 150 hill ewes.

As of the weekend ending 11 April, approximately 250 crossbred ewes have lambed. All ewes are housed for lambing, which makes feeding and general management easier to carry out.

All lamb birth data is being recorded at birth as part of the flock management programme Clement uses to monitor ewe and lamb performance.

Turnout to grass was held up by snow and cold weather over Easter week, but Clement managed to start slipping ewes with stronger lambs out to grass towards the end of last week.


The farm had built up a good cover of grass for post-lambing turnout, after a dressing of urea back on 5 March.

But with the colder temperatures limiting grass growth in the past week, ewes are being supplemented every second day to stretch covers and slow down grazing demand.

Once grass growth picks up, concentrate feeding will stop. The hill ewes have also been brought inside for lambing and ease of management, in terms of feeding in the run-up to lambs being born.

Lambing is due to start this week for these ewes, along with the replacement hoggets for both flocks on farm. Again, ewes will stay inside for three to four days before going out to grass.


As the workload reaches peak levels at lambing, Clement has employed a veterinary student for the first time. The student, Tanya Douglas, comes from California. Although she has no background in sheep farming, Tanya’s livestock skills have been a fantastic addition to the farm this spring.

Dermot McAleese – Loughguile, Co Antrim

Dermot runs an upland flock of just over 200 crossbred Mule, Texel-cross Mule and older Blackface ewes on upland grass, along with a second flock of 300 younger, prime Blackface ewes grazing on mountain ground.

Lambing started in mid-March for the crossbred ewes, with over 100 lambed as of the weekend just past. Lambing has been progressing well, with the only real issue stemming from a ram with a low libido.

The ram was fertility tested, had a high semen count and was deemed fruitful when breeding started in autumn.

However, he was slow to mate with ewes he was turned out to and, as a result, there are a lot of late-lambing ewes that ran with this ram.

The crossbred ewes that have lambed are all out at grass, as housing space is limited and the workload is fairly hectic at present.

Ewes are getting 0.5kg/day of concentrate, fed via a trailed snacker until grass growth picks up. Urea was spread on grassland two weeks ago, so hopefully growth will pick up as temperatures rise.

Hill ewes

The hill flock is the main sheep flock on-farm and started lambing on 1 April. These ewes are turned out to grass during the day and twin-bearing females are rehoused overnight.

Most ewes are lambing outside during the daytime, which helps to ease the pressure on the daily workload.

Normally, the hill ewes with single lambs go back to the mountain around one week post-lambing, with twins staying on improved grazing.

However, there is grass on an outfarm that was bought last year and the hill ewes are being put to the ground first to graze and will go to hill in a few weeks time.

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