A Comprehensive Guide to a Productive Lambing Season with Katie Shanahan
With the lambing season on the horizon, the Shanahan family, where farmer and social media influencer Katie Shanahan is a prominent member, readies themselves for the busy period on their West Cork farm. Renowned for overseeing both commercial and pedigree Charollais ewes, alongside a thriving suckler herd, Katie imparts her insights into the preparation, management, and optimisation of the upcoming lambing season. Well-regarded in the agricultural community, Katie contributes part-time to the family farm while working full-time with farm management company, Herdwatch in the marketing department. Katie explains “We have been using Herdwatch on the farm for over 4 years and I always loved the simplicity of the app, when the opportunity arose to work for such a well-developed and exciting Agri-tech company, I knew it would be a role I would love!
“My life has always revolved around farming and working for Herdwatch allows me to work, day to day in the industry I love with a product I am passionate about.”
Preparation for Lambing Season & The Role of Agri Technology:
Katie emphasises the importance of meticulous preparation before, during, and after lambing, acknowledging the significant impact it can have on the well-being of both ewes and lambs. With the pedigree flock commencing lambing in early January, artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer (ET) methods are commonly used, reducing the lambing down period on the farm. The Shanahan family, comprising of Katie, her brother Eamon, and father Raymond, engages in all-hands-on-deck efforts during the busy lambing days and nights.
Highlighting the challenges of managing a farm alongside full-time jobs, Katie underscores the role of Agri Technology and Software in maintaining a productive operation. The Herdwatch App simplifies record-keeping, especially with ET and AI breeding methods. Katie explains, “Being able to scan the ewes’ EID tags and attach the details of the genetic dam and sire from the ease of my phone makes things so much easier.” The app facilitates real-time tracking of sheep during lambing, ensuring seamless communication among family members.
Katie walks us through the crucial steps of pre-lambing care, emphasising the vital role of nutrition in the final weeks of gestation. Underfeeding can lead to various complications, including higher lamb mortalities and susceptibility to diseases. Katie introduces concentrates into the ewes’ diet in late pregnancy, compensating for the reduction in good-quality grass due to adverse weather conditions. Research indicates that 70% of lamb growth occurs in the final six weeks of pregnancy.
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Lambing is a pivotal time for a sheep farm, and adequate preparation is essential. Katie suggests ensuring well-prepared lambing facilities, including hay racks, water sources, and meal containers in each pen. The introduction of lambing cameras to the yard has proven transformative, allowing the Shanahan family to monitor their operation remotely. Katie expresses the freedom granted by Herdwatch and other Agri-Tech such as their cameras.
“We are not constantly tied down to the farm between paperwork and lambing.” Katie details how the Herdwatch App streamlines record-keeping, Katie records all births on the farm for both sheep and suckler enterprises in seconds through the Sheep & Goats section in the app.
“Whether you’re creating a lambing record or registering a calf, it’s done in seconds from anywhere on the farm through my phone”.
Additionally, Katie discusses the apps’ role in maintaining a productive flock by reviewing breeding records and making informed decisions, especially when it comes to culling problematic ewes.
It is always important to look back after the breeding season to make decisions going forward. Katie explains how they can use Herdwatch to check previous records on breeding ewes from her phone in the yard and make informed decisions regarding culling. “It’s handy because we have all our treatments recorded in the app and can use the culling tool to highlight problematic ewes for culling”.
Katies guide to creating a lambing record on Herdwatch:
- Tap on the orange plus button (+).
- Tap on lambing record
- Tap on the ewe who’s lambed.
- Fill in the required details- Here Katie can select Embryo Transfer & Select the Genetic Dam.
- Tap the next button and this will bring you on to fill in the details of each lamb.
- Fill out the gender, if they have been tagged you can put in their tag number if not they will be recorded with a lambing number.
- Once details are filled in for each lamb press the save button.
How can I get the app?
You can join the Katie and over 21,000 other farmers on Herdwatch by downloading the app and say goodbye to farm paperwork once and for all.
To get started on Herdwatch, click here to download the app from App store of Play Store!