Sheep farmers not sitting on the fence
More and more farmers taking the plunge and moving away from a set stocking system to maximise returns
Published 19/08/2015 | 02:30
While grass measurement and rotational grazing has traditionally been the preserve of the dairy farmer, more and more sheep farmers are embracing the system to maximise returns on their farms.
Research by Teagasc's Philip Creighton suggests farmers can double their productivity by making the switch.
"The average output on Irish sheep farms is about 200kg of lamb carcase sales per hectare. This is based on a stocking rate of seven to eight ewes per hectare, and an average of 1.3 lambs sold per ewe," he says.
However, the most recent data from the demonstration farm at Athenry shows that carcase sales of 400kg/ha is achievable with stocking rates of 12 ewes per hectare and 1.8 lambs sold per ewe.
This was achieved with ewes being fed an average of just 20kg/hd of meals, while only 10pc of the lambs received concentrate feeding.
"Obviously, the actual level of performance is going to vary from farm to farm, depending on soil type and fertility, the prolificacy of the ewes being used, and the level of grassland management," adds Mr Creighton.
"But one thing that is an absolute must to improve productivity is a fencing system that allows you to move away from a set stocking system. And I've yet to meet a farmer that regretted installing a rotational grazing system."
Sheep fencing has not been included as one of the measures in the new TAMS, a move that has been heavily criticised by both the IFA and the ICSA.