At the moment the majority of the ewes are grazing forage rape, set after the winter cereal harvest.
The very wet weather of recent days and weeks is presenting a challenge in terms of grazing and utilisation of this crop, and is placing a bit of extra pressure on the system.
Ewes will be housed early in the New Year when weather conditions allow, and winter shearing will take place in the second week of January.
Winter shearing brings benefits in terms of increased lamb birth-weight; easier observation at lambing time; and it makes it easier to monitor animal condition.
A minimum of eight weeks wool regrowth is required before animals are turned out.
The final 23 lambs are not housed and are building up to an ad lib concentrate diet. Lamb price is reasonably good at the moment but as meal feeding levels are increased at this time of the year margins remain tight.
We examined the silage analysis results before housing. Our first cut silage which will be offered to the ewes in late pregnancy is both high in drymatter digestibility (DMD) at 77pc, and high in protein at 15.1pc.
This will greatly reduce concentrate feed requirements compared to average quality silage.
A mineral analysis was also carried out. Both iron and molybdenum are present at high concentrations.
These elements can reduce copper availability so we will need to plan accordingly for this. Copper is required by livestock and deficiency can cause severe problems.
Copper is of particular concern with sheep due to the fact that sheep are particularly susceptible to copper toxicity, much more so than cattle are.
But when antagonists like iron and molybdenum are present we need to ensure that enough available copper is present to meet the animal's requirements.
As we have just closed the 'farmlets' involved in the multi-species grazing study the analysis of this data can start in earnest.
Connie Grace will be focussed on drawing this information together, seeing where the major responses were and fine tuning the plans for next year's grazing trial.
I have highlighted some of the promising results we recorded throughout the year, but as with any grazing work it needs to be repeated across a number of years to see if the performance holds up.
However, initial outcomes are positive for the mutli- species swards.
As this is my last article of the year, I would like to take the opportunity firstly to welcome Michael Ronayne on board as a new member of the farm staff working in Lyons and especially on the sheep team.
Also I wish everybody a happy and safe Christmas and look forward to an exciting New Year.
Tommy Boland is a lecturer in sheep production and is based at UCD's Lyons Research Farm email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The final lambs will be sold in the next three to four weeks as we try not to have these hanging around when the ewes are being housed. We're doing the routine maintenance on drinkers and mending gates and feed barriers in the sheep shed before the ewes come in. Grazing conditions on the forage rape will be monitored closely as the recent heavy rainfall have made underfoot conditions very difficult.