Wednesday 28 September 2016

Good grass growth poses its own issues

Tom Staunton

Published 05/08/2015 | 02:30

The agricultural show in Tourmakeady had the largest amount of sheep entered to date. Stock phot
The agricultural show in Tourmakeady had the largest amount of sheep entered to date. Stock phot

The uncontrollable weather has had a large impact on us all over the past few weeks.

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Here in Mayo it has meant that grass growth rates are good which is making grass difficult to manage. I am busy with the topper keeping the grass in check. This is not ideal as it is very time consuming.

Improving my grass management skills or changing the system to suit might be more worthwhile than spending hours in the tractor.

I thought about taking a few fields up for silage but with the amount of rain we're having I am more inclined to continue with what I'm doing and to purchase hay or silage if needed later on in the year.

The weather also affected our local agricultural show in Tourmakeady. Ground conditions were difficult but it was great to see a bit of community spirit keeping the show going and it was also the largest amount of sheep entered to the show to date.

The remainder of the Mule lambs were weaned last week and the Lanark type, Blackface Mountain lambs were also weaned.

The ewes were put on a bare field for a few days to help with the drying off process.

I try to keep the lambs out of hearing distance and out of sight of the ewes as I find they are more settled this way.

I usually confine them to a smaller field for a few days until they settle. The wether lambs were moved onto the newly reseeded ground which has good covering of leafy grass and rape.

These lambs are being let into the rape during the day and are taken out in the evening.

Rape is a type of brassica and if it is not grazed and managed correctly especially in the first few weeks this can have a number of consequences as I have experienced before. This is why I am adjusting them to the new forage slowly.

As with any change of diet it takes time for an animal to adjust to it. Ruminal acidosis is an example of a nutritional disorder which can occur at diet change.

Minerals and vitamins

I dosed all the sheep that I let into the rape with a ruminant product which aids rumen adaption to diet changes and also provides them with essential minerals and vitamins.

Past experiences of feeding rape to lambs has made me more aware of some side effects including goitre which occurs due to chemicals in the crop which prevents the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland and this causes an enlarged thyroid gland and swelling of the throat.

Rape scald is another effect which I have experienced before where compounds within the rape cause the skin to become quite sensitive to sunlight.

This causes the head and ears to blister and swell which effects thrive. I am aware of these through trial and error and I think I can make efficient use of the crop this time.

The lambs will remain on the rape and grass mix until slaughter, as will the ewes which I am culling.

Weaning was an ideal time for pulling all the ewes that I have for culling together. These are ewes that either underperformed throughout the year, are spun out, mastitis cases or prolapse cases.

I have some more scope this year to cull as I have around 70 ewe hoggetts of my own to replace the outgoing ewes. It is the first year in quite a while that I have near enough replacements.

This is my plan for the future that I will continue on breeding my own replacements.

I find I have better control of the type of sheep I breed. I was finding it difficult to buy the type of replacements I wanted also.

The ewe hoggetts and the mature ewes will be prepared for mating over the next few months.

I start preparing the rams earlier by supplementing them with feed and also by giving them the once over to make sure they are physically functional for the forthcoming breeding season.

Tom Staunton farms in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo

tstaunton@ independent.ie

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