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Independent.ie

Tuesday 6 December 2016

How this expanding Leitrim sheep farmer plans to make €80/ewe margin

Autumn grass management is among the top priorities on the Richardson farm

Tom Coll

Published 18/11/2016 | 10:00

Three pedigree rams were introduced on October 1 to the Lleyn flock on the Richardson farm in Carrigallen, Co Leitrim
Three pedigree rams were introduced on October 1 to the Lleyn flock on the Richardson farm in Carrigallen, Co Leitrim

Clifford Richardson farms near Carrigallen on the Leitrim/Cavan border.

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He began farming in 2012 and has established a flock of 80 pedigree Lleyn ewes, laming in mid Febuary.

the breed is well known for ease of care and prolificacy. This year the ewes scanned with a litter size of 1.97 with 94pc of the ewes in lamb.

Clifford is a participant in the Sheep Ireland flock performance recording system Lamb-Plus.

Clifford's three year plan aims to increase ewe numbers, reduce labour and generate a gross margin of at least €80/ewe.

Breeding

Stock numbers have doubled on Clifford Richardson's farm from 79 ewes mated in 2015 to 148 ewes, including hoggets, and 25 ewe lambs put to the ram this year.

To stimulate the ram effect, a teaser ram was introduced to the mature ewes and hoggets on September 17.

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The teaser was removed after 48 hours and three pedigree Lleyn rams were introduced to the flock on October 1.

To facilitate the recording of individual rams with Sheep Ireland, Clifford uses single sire mating.

Ram 1 ran with a batch of 56 ewes, ram 2 with a batch of 52 and ram 3 with a batch of 40 purchased hoggets which will remain separate from the main flock.

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All the ewes were raddle marked in the first three weeks of October and there is no evidence of any activity since. Clifford is hopeful at this stage that the majority of ewes have held to the first service.

This will result in a compact lambing season for 2017. The ewes were in good body condition at mating, with the majority having a body condition score of 3.5-4.

Grazing

Ewes were used to clean out paddocks, grazing after the lambs when they were dried off after weaning. They had access to good quality grass for 30 days with no ram contact prior to the introduction of the teaser ram.

After a little gentle persuasion, Clifford has decided to put 25 ewe lambs to the ram this year.

The ewe lambs selected are between 50kgs and 55kgs and the ram effect has also been used to compact the lambing spread.

The ewes and ewe lambs were dosed with a closantel-based product for fluke prior to mating and the ewe lambs were given a mineral bolus two weeks prior to mating and also received two shots of a clostridial vaccine four weeks apart.

Clifford selects the top ram lambs to be sold as breeding rams and the remainder are slaughtered through the Sligo/Leitrim lamb producer group.

This year 50 ram lambs were slaughtered at the ICM plant in Navan.

Performance

They were selected at an average live weight of 52kgs and produced an average carcase weight of 21.97kgs which equates to an average kill out of 42pc.

The average factory lamb price this year was €103 /hd, with 26pc of lambs grading U3 and the remainder grading R3.

The actual weight paid on for the lambs was 21.1kgs. This would be an issue on most farms where stocking rate is high or where lambs are being meal fed.

On the Richardson farm stocking rate is low and lambs are grass fed only. This has enabled Clifford to retain the lambs to higher weights and to maximise lamb price.

The ewe lambs that remained after selecting replacements are being sold for breeding.

Spring grazing

The most important task that Clifford will undertake over the next two months is to ensure that the farm is closed off properly to have an adequate supply of grass early next spring.

The grazing season for next spring begins now and autumn management of grazed grass is the primary factor influencing the supply of grass available in spring on any farm.

Clifford plans to have 40pc of the farm closed by mid- November and will close off the remainder in rotation on a weekly basis as the sheep graze out fields.

Closing fields or paddocks means not allowing any stock to graze these fields until they are required by ewes post lambing, even where covers on the field closed first are high.

Clifford plans to house ewes depending on weather conditions and grass supply around six weeks prior to lambing. Based on current grass covers he expects to have sufficient winter grass until mid-January.

Tom Coll is a Teagasc drystock and business advisor based in Mohill, Co Leitrim

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