Fodder beet grazing system provides food for thought
A fodder beat winter system is paying dividends
Ned Morrissey farms 370 ewes on his 30-hectare farm at Dunhill, Co Waterford. At roughly 13 ewes/ha, it's an intensive farming system by any standards. What is intriguing about his system is that he does it without housing most of his sheep and lambing his ewes outdoors apart from the triplets and singles.
It's a low cost, low labour system which returned a profit margin of €876/ha last year. The key to his enterprise's success is that each year he sows two hectares of fodder beet on which he strip grazes his 370 ewes from November till mid February.
The farm is divided up into 18 paddocks so he rotates the fodder beet crop around the farm reseeding as he goes.
This strategy enables him to remain highly stocked and profitable.
He gradually introduces the sheep to the crop in November, letting them in for an hour at first and then building it up to five hours per day as the sheep get used to the crop.
They are moved back on to what he calls a 'lie-back' area which is essentially the paddock adjacent to the fodder crop.
Here the sheep have access to minerals and silage if they need it, and this same paddock is the one that is used for the following year's beet crop, while the other one is reseeded.
Once he is finished grazing the ewes on the fodder beet in mid February, the ewes are separated out into their various groups.