Fodder rape may suit the hard midlands frost
Not only is my mind focusing on the preparation for the upcoming breeding season for 2015 but I am also planning for the winter ahead. The biggest challenge to any farming system is getting through the winter as cheaply as possible.
Now that the winter barley is cut I have decided to sow 20ac of fodder rape. I haven't tried this before with sheep but I think that it will suit my farm the best.
I had toyed with the idea of fodder beet, but the hard frosts that we get here in the midlands might just not suit that type of a crop.
The aim is to get the rape sown straight after the harvest so as to give it plenty of time to get established. It costs roughly €150 per acre to grow with seed, fertiliser and machinery costs so it's not the most expensive crop to grow.
The benefit that I see from growing it will be that it will mean reduced labour during the winter as the sheep will be largely wintered outside. I would prefer not to have to house sheep until just at lambing, it triples the work load and it's expensive. Just how many sheep I will get to graze on it depends on how well the crop establishes.
I continue to draft the ram lambs which are on meal. The recent price rise is a welcome turnaround. I find with ram lambs they need to be between 48 and 50kg live if you want to achieve the maximum kill out of 21.5kg. The last load I sent off averaged 47kg liveweight and killed out on average 20.4kg.
This is one kilo less sheep meat that I am getting paid for, so getting the remaining lambs to at least 50kg is the aim from now on. Ram lambs can be misleading when you weigh them, they need a fleshy back, any sign of a spine underneath the flesh when you put a hand on them means they are best left off until the next draft.
The ewe lambs will be separated into two groups. The Texel and Suffolk cross ewe lambs all out of Mule ewes are retained for breeding.