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Thursday 8 December 2016

The sweet sound of rain pelting off the windows

Tommy Boland

Published 26/08/2015 | 02:30

Grass growth has dropped recently.
Grass growth has dropped recently.

The grass growth situation at Lyons has deteriorated further in the last month. Rainfall is our major issue at the moment.

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Due to the very shallow soil depth on the farmlet site, it is particularly susceptible to soil moisture deficit. As I write this we are now three weeks into August but have received only 13pc of our normal rainfall for the month.

This has resulted in grass growth plummeting to below 20kg/DM/ha per day. On the dairy platform it is below 30kg/DM/ha per day.

Rain is badly needed and I'm glad to hear the rain beating off the window as I write.

This drop in grass growth has resulted in meals being introduced to some groups of lambs at a rate of 250gm per day using trough feeding.

Lamb growth is currently at 210gm per day, which is quite acceptable given this grazing platform is stocked at 12 ewes plus their lambs on each hectare.

Lambs are selected for slaughter when they reach a target live weight of 45kg and to date these lambs have averaged a 44pc kill out leaving a carcase of just under 20kg.

The mixed species grazing treatments are resulting in lambs finishing faster.

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So far 61pc of the lambs are finished from the mixed species swards at 22 weeks, with 41pc from the other treatments.

Lambs grazing our mixed species swards still have a low faecal egg count (FEC) of 190epg and have not received any dose after their 10 week dose.

As before this is very early stages for this work but it certainly suggests an area of further study in relation to parasite control.

Our focus is now switching towards preparing the flock for breeding.

Body condition

This summer appears to have flown along and in just seven weeks ewes will once again be AI'd as part of the Sheep Ireland Central Progeny Test (CPT) scheme. Our ewes will lamb down in the second week of March.

In preparation for this we have separated the ewes with a body condition score of less than 3 from the remainder of the flock.

These ewes are now receiving access to good quality grass to improve their Body Condition Score (BCS) to 3.5-plus.

The remaining ewes will continue to clear out paddocks behind the lambs and will begin flushing six weeks before their mating date.

An increase of one unit of body condition equates to approximately seven to nine kg of live weight, which is mainly fat, and depending on the quality of grass on offer can take six to 10 weeks to achieve this level of gain.

To achieve this gain, feeding of additional energy above that is essential to maintain the ewe as required.

An additional 450 mega joules of metabolisable energy is needed to allow a ewe to achieve a one unit increase in body condition score.

This is equivalent to the energy content of 33kg of barley or about 40kg of good quality grass DM.

Trace elements are of particular importance around mating, with selenium, iodine, cobalt and copper all having important roles to play in embryo survival, lamb vigour and lamb viability. We supplement ewes and ewe lambs pre-mating with cobalt.

Interestingly, a cobalt deficiency around mating can result in still births or the birth of lambs with poor survivability, leading to increased work load and losses at lambing time. Cobalt supplementation is a very low cost way to reduce this problem.

The last couple of weeks have seen the announcement of CAO points and college offers sent out to tens of thousands of Leaving Cert students.

The CAO points for Agricultural Science in UCD are up a further five points this year to 470 points in the first round offers.

This highlights the demand for places in UCD Agricultural Science program and the quality of students applying.

It also reflects the positive employment opportunities that exist for Ag Science graduates at the moment as our students continue to be successful in finding employment upon graduation.

With the drive for increased agricultural output nationally, there will continue to be a need for highly qualified graduates up to date with the latest technology and economic developments in the agri-food sector.

Dr Tommy Boland is a lecturer in Sheep Production at Lyons Research Farm, UCD.

tommy.boland@ ucd.ie

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