Farm Ireland

Friday 21 October 2016

Rainfall running at a fifth of our June average

Tommy Boland

Published 01/07/2015 | 02:30

Rain is badly needed for grazing ground
Rain is badly needed for grazing ground

June has proven to be a particularly dry month here in Lyons.

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At the time of writing(June 26) our monthly rainfall is running at just 22pc of our 10-year average resulting in a drop in grass growth in the last two weeks in particular.

At the moment the sheep grazing ground is growing 40kg DM/ha/day so we are desperately in need of rain.

The dairy ground at Lyons is faring much better with a daily growth of 62 kg DM/ha. As the sheep ground is elevated with a much shallower layer of top soil it is particularly susceptible to dry conditions.

Both are relatively freshly reseeded, so it is not an issue of pasture age.

With the exception of the repeats our lambs are now all weaned. The twins which are enrolled in Connie Grace's mixed species grazing study were weaned at 14 weeks of age and achieved an average live weight at weaning of 34kg. This represents a daily live weight gain from birth of 287g per day.

These farmlets are stocked at 12.5 ewes/ha. The twins not enrolled in the grazing study along with any single and triplet born lambs were weaned at 13 weeks of age and hit 33kg live weight.

Grass demand The non-experimental animals are grazing silage (cut May 15) after grass, while the experimental lambs remain within their experimental farmlets. Lambs are grazing down to a post grazing sward height of 5 cm with the ewes then coming in to take it down to 4.25cm.

With the ewes now weaned their daily grass demand has dropped from 2.3kg DM just prior to weaning to 0.8kg DM immediately post weaning. This demand will increase two-fold between now and September.

We do not house ewes, but they are stocked heavily immediately post weaning to shut down milk production.

Care should be taken not to over restrict ewes as this time or twin-lamb type symptoms can appear. The ewes had an average BCS of 2.9 at weaning. We are budgeting on a daily grass DM demand for our lambs of 1.2kg.

Only 2.5pc of the experimental lambs were ready for slaughter at weaning. They had an average live weight of 44.4kg and killed out at 47.4pc to give a carcass of 21.05kg.

These lambs were on average 100 days old at slaughter and had a birth weight of 6.4kg.

These lambs grew at 380g per day from birth to slaughter. It reaffirms the relationship between birth weight and subsequent lamb growth rate, it's just a pity there was not a few more ready for the trailer!!

Average faecal egg counts in the lambs at 12 weeks of age were 90 eggs per gram. This was two weeks after a levamisole drench.

Fourteen week egg counts are being finalised at the time of writing but growth rates in the final two weeks pre weaning would suggest there is no issue.

There have been a few incidences of maggots in the lambs at this stage and we will treat them shortly with a pour-on. The ewes will also be dipped in the coming weeks.

With the use of any product on finishing lambs care is required with the withdrawal periods. We will use Clikzin this year. This has a withdrawal period of just seven days and offers a maximum of eight weeks protection.

Even at a modest post weaning performance of 150g/day, lambs will achieve a live weight gain of 8.5kg in an eight week period.

So any lamb weighing 36kg or over will finish within the protection period of the above product.

Along with thousands of sheep farmers, I attended Sheep2015 on June 20 in Athenry.

There was a wealth of information on the day and I felt the presentation of this information made it easy to capture the main highlights of each village.

As with most things in life, there is no single 'silver bullet' in sheep farming to increase profitability; the way forward lies in improving many small aspects of the system.

Land tends to be the limiting factor for most Irish farms, and lamb sales the main generator of income.

The potential to increase profit through improving stocking rate and litter size was evident in Athenry, but the management required to achieve this must not be underestimated.

Dr Tommy Boland lectures in sheep production at Lyons farm, UCD


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