The weather for mating was quite good at least until November 20, but as grass is rapidly running out he will begin housing on December 1.
Apart from the ewe flock he currently has 300 bought in store lambs on grass on one of his out-farm blocks that will not be grazed in spring until late April or early May.
Michael has closed off 19.6ha. (48.5 acres) already this year and this will be rested until lambing.
He is following the approach adopted by Philip Creighton at the Teagasc Sheep Research farm in Athenry.
"I began closing off on October 25 and by October 314.7 ha. (11.5 acres) were closed; followed by 6.8ha. (17 acres) by November 11. 8.0ha. (20 acres) were closed on November 23.
"By the end of housing on December 7 I will have 34ha (84 ac) closed off which should see me through next spring until growth takes off in April," explained Michael. According to Philip Creighton it is the growth before Christmas that counts as growth from January 1 until lambing can be very disappointing.
The fields were grazed to 4cm prior to closing and on November 24 the fields closed on October 25 had 6.5cm of cover whereas those closed on October 16 had between 4.2 and 4.5cm of cover. Table 1 shows the closing off strategy adopted by Philip Creighton in Athenry.
Lamb Sales 2015
Table 2 is a monthly summary of his lamb sales in 2015. The setback in spring kept 2015 sales behind that of 2014 until September when the good weather gave a welcome boost to lamb performance, but as of November 23 they are still behind 2014 figures.
Purchased Store lambs
700 lambs have been purchased and of those 50 have been slaughtered. It has been more difficult to purchase store lambs this year since September.
This is due to a lower supply and higher store lamb price. 350 of those are currently indoors leaving approx 300 still out on grass. The recent lift in lamb price was a welcome relief.
Silage Analysis 2015
The results of two silage samples are contained in Table 3. Although the poor weather made both closing and cutting decisions very difficult, Michael was hoping that the silage would be of higher quality - above 70pc DMD.
The DMD's of 67 and 68 are a big drop from previous years. The low crude proteins (CP) of 8.0 and 8.3 are also disappointing. Silage for ewes should have a DMD of 75pc and a CP of 13pc.
"I am planning to feed 0.25kg./ewe of rolled barley from the start of housing this year to all ewes to prevent any slip in body condition scores (BCS) as happened last spring. I will check BCS scores every 10-14 days and adjust the feeding level accordingly," said Michael.
All the ewes have had their second Fluke Dose (Closantel). They were also given a Cobalt dose at the same time.
Michael plans to do some soil sampling in early January and will review soil fertility levels when he gets the analysis results.
He will also do more weekly grass measurements in 2016 and is hoping to use the PastureBase programme as a tool to help him with grassland management.
John Cannon is a Teagasc business and technology advisor (drystock) based in Letterkenny
* The next Sheep Tech report will be from Sean Conway's farm in Sligo in the Farming independent of January 5 2016.