Friday 30 September 2016

Going back to the grassroots

Clifford Richardson is eyeing up two major changes after a difficult spring, on his Leitrim farm

Tom Coll

Published 11/05/2016 | 02:30

Clifford Richardson who began farming on the family's farm on the Leitrim and Cavan border three years ago.
Clifford Richardson who began farming on the family's farm on the Leitrim and Cavan border three years ago.

The first steps in the newly drawn-up three year plan for the farm will see grassland management tackled before any changes to flock size.

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The newest farmer to take part in SheepTech is planning to follow the steps now well-established in the dairy industry by moving to a paddock style system.

Clifford (33) plans to establish two grazing blocks with seven paddocks in each block. As part of the plan, he has also identified fields which will be reseeded this summer using the min-till method

Clifford says he will make use of the window that exists by reseeding prior to increasing stocking rate. He feels this will put less pressure on the grazing system than trying to reseed when stocking rates increase. Silage will be made from paddocks which become too high for grazing with no specific area of ground closed for silage. This will ensure that silage will be of high quality and subsequently reduce concentrate requirement of the ewes prelambing.

Grassland management is the one of the key areas of the plan he would like to perfect over the next few years.

And the difficult spring that impacted farmers all over the country through poor grass growth has emphasised the importance of strong growth to delivering results.

In 2015, there were 79 pedigree Lleyn ewes mated on the farm. After keeping them out as long as possible, ewes were housed during the last week of December.

The lambing took place over a four week period from the first week of February to the first week of March.

Around 96pc or 76 ewes lambed with a litter size of 2.12 lambs per ewe. Some 18 lambs died during the lambing period giving a mortality rate of 11pc. Around 13 lambs were sold as pets and ewes are currently rearing 1.65 lambs per ewe mated. Ewes consumed 46kgs of concentrates per head at a cost of €15.80 per ewe.

Drench

He decided not to creep feed the lambs. After taking into account the flock history he decided to treat all lambs for coccidiosis and they were given a white drench for nematodirus on April 30 when gathered for weighing.

Clifford, who is an active participant in a sheep discussion group, is a participant in the Sheep Ireland LambPlus flock recording system.

Flock performance will be outlined in more detail in later articles as weaning weights are recorded.

Lambs were weight recorded at birth and on April 30. Birth weights of singles, twins and triplet born lambs were 5.9kg, 4.4kg and 3.6kg respectively. Lamb performance comparing sires adjusted to 100 day weights are outlined in the table. The LambPlus recording system allows Clifford to evaluate the performance of lambs from his two stock rams. A similar number of lambs were recorded for each sire. It showed 'Ram2' produced lambs that were 0.63kg heavier at birth than 'Ram1' and were 2.3kg heavier when adjusted for 100 day weight.

This outlines the differences in growth rates that can exist between rams within breeds and the importance of selecting rams with good growth rates from their Eurostar indexes.

Looking at the indexes, a five star animal when compared to one star animals will have less lambing difficulty reducing farm labour, will produce more lambs from a combination of higher litter size and fewer deaths at birth, ewes will be lighter and will produce heavier lambs at weaning.

The more data that is collected from each ram over their lifetime will increase the accuracy of their figures and those of their offspring.

Tom Coll is a Teagasc advisor based in Mohill, Co Leitrim

Three year farm plan

Clifford Richardson began farming on the family’s farm near the town of Carrigallen on the Leitrim and Cavan border three years ago.

Having acquired additional land in 2015 he plans to increase flock size from 79 ewes put to the ram in 2015 to 240 made up of 200 ewes and 40 ewe lambs going to the ram in 2017.

He is in the process of following a three year farm plan put in place in January 2016 to increase farm  profitability.

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