All concentrate diets: Reports indicate that there is some very poor-quality silage and hay present on farms.

Some of this forage was saved from traditional hay meadows where the cutting date was further delayed beyond 1 July.

In such cases there is little option but to purchase alternative forage or increase the level of concentrates fed, which may be a safer bet if the quality of any alternative forage source is unknown.

As a general rule, feeding levels on a high-concentrate diet are doubled. The general recommendation for a twin-suckling ewe in good body condition is 1.2kg in weeks six to five pre-lambing rising to 1.4kg for weeks four and three and 1.7kg in the final two weeks of gestation. Single-bearing ewes will typically require 30% less and triplet bearing ewes 30% more.

The total volume of meal fed will be roughly 55kg to 60kg for this period.

At a cost of €330/t this equates to about €18 to €20 per head. It is important to ensure ewes have access to a source of fibre and that facilities are available to allow all sheep to eat unrestricted, and have adequate water laid on.

Good-quality straw is the optimum fibre source. In bedded housing, ewes should be offered twice their straw intake (1.5kg) along feeding passageways or feeders and any straw not consumed can be used for bedding.

The protein content of the concentrate can be reduced to 16% to 18% due to the higher concentrate intake, while concentrates should be balanced with vitamins and minerals.

Feeding levels should be built up gradually and split between at least two daily feeds to avoid digestive issues.

Weather woes: This week’s sheep feature discusses some options for farmers currently lambing and facing challenges in getting ewes and lambs outdoors. The harsh weather is also hard on outwintered flocks. It is important that supplementary feeding is introduced in adequate time to outwintered ewes in hill flocks or later-lambing lowland flocks. Ewes should be monitored regularly and feeding levels stepped up as necessary to take account of poor ground conditions and a low dry matter content in grazed forage.

Lambing preparations: The number of flocks lambing will increase from 1 March 2022. It’s good practice to ensure a full complement of lambing aids are present well in advance of when they will be required. Check the condition of stomach tubes, lines and teats in artificial feeders etc to ensure that they remain in good condition and can be adequately cleaned and disinfected. Checking that items such as infra-red lamps and warming boxes are working is also advised, while having a convenient source of hot water promotes improved hygiene.

Hill sheep conference: The Teagasc national hill sheep conference takes place on Thursday 24 February at 7pm. This year’s event takes place both in person and virtually. It will be held in the Clayton Hotel, Sligo (F91 N8EF), while registration for the virtual event is at

Topics on the night include developing innovative actions for high nature value farming, an overview of the effect of breed type on the performance of hill sheep, post-mortem findings in sheep submitted to the Regional Veterinary Laboratories and eye problems and blindness in sheep.