Farm Ireland

Sunday 23 October 2016

Grass control the main challenge over the summer

John Fagan

Published 24/06/2015 | 02:30

The perfect cut of silage
The perfect cut of silage

The pressure is off to some extent as the silage and shearing is all wrapped-up. The silage was cut in perfect conditions and I managed to get a 24-hour wilt on it. I find that 24-hours in dry conditions is an ample amount of time for grass to wilt.

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Silage that is too dry going into the pit can get too spongy and quality then drops. The big challenge that remains for the rest of the summer is keeping the grass under control and keeping it leafy and palatable for stock.

Any fields that get too far ahead will be taken out and made into haylage.

Topping grass is not my preferred method of controlling grass. I would rather mow a field and either let the sheep graze it out clean or make it into bales.

Shearing went ahead smoothly, it's great to get it over with and I hear that the wool price is over the €1.50/kg mark which is a welcome result.

I have had a lot of trouble with ewes going on their backs, a result of them being over fat. Shearing should put an end to this but last year even after shearing I had some problems with this.

I will be keeping an eye on them in the days afterwards as they can still be itchy after shearing and the fatter ewes are still prone to getting stuck on their backs despite having been shorn.

The first draft of lambs are due to be taken from the ewes this week.

I find drafting lambs this time of year at 40 kilos upwards off the ewe is probably the most profitable draft of the year.

The carcase weight is that bit lighter, but you might struggle to get the same price with a heavier lamb later in the summer, so I think it is best to move them on.

It is just a question of how many you can get away. After this draft I will probably wean the rest of them, separating out the ewes and ram lambs, and I'll give them all a Cobalt Bolus.

My farm is prone to cobalt deficiency so I find that giving the bolus is an effective way of maintaining lamb thrive throughout the rest of the grazing season.

There are various products out there, take your pick, I generally go for the cheapest. When it comes to mineral supplements it is important to know whether or not you have a problem or not before purchasing.

There is no point in forking out loads of money on minerals unless you are sure that you have a problem.

Blood samples

You can take blood samples from your ewes or indeed soil samples. It was through soil sampling that I discovered I had a cobalt deficiency and therefore needed to supplement my lambs.

Another symptom of cobalt deficiency in lambs, which is particularly evident on Charolais lambs, is a crustiness forming on their ears. If you have this then it is a sure sign there is a cobalt problem.

I have not treated any of my lambs with Clik or dip yet. The ewes will be fine post shearing as the fact that they have no wool means they won't be susceptible to fly strike.

I will dip them towards the end of July as some wool will have grown back at that stage and that should last them till the end of the summer.

As for the lambs, I am in two minds about what I should do with them. Normally I treat them with Clik, which is really effective, but pricey, and as it is late in the year the withdrawal periods with Clik could delay their drafting.

So I am considering using a shower system and dipping the lambs in this way.

A friend of mine has convinced me that this is the way to go rather than dipping, as it is less stressful on the lambs and cheaper. I'll be using Cyperguard non-organophosphate (OP) dip, rather than the OP dip.

The OP dip has a 35 day withdrawal compared with 14 days for the Cyperguard one, although there is a possibility that I will have to do them again at the end of July with Cyperguard but it's worth a try.

The dairy heifers have been arriving gradually over the last few weeks as they come off milk and so far so good they've been easily managed.

I just need to keep them moving ahead of the lambs grazing the top of the grass and therefore I need to continually focus on maintaining grass quality, hence the need to take out fields if the grass is getting too strong.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath


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