Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Act quickly to control pastures

A burst of growth, like the one we have enjoyed over the past week, makes it more difficult to manage grass. The key is to react quickly.

The target for grazed out swards on sheep farms in May is 5cm. In June it should be to graze down from 8cm to 6cm.

If you are operating on a set stocking rate, then try to keep it at 7cm.

This is the most important period of the year for grass management and maintaining a quality pasture through the rest of the summer.

Thriving lambs are all down to grass management. It is also a key component in the cost of finishing lambs as the more lambs that can be finished off grass, and the more weight gained from pasture, the greater the profit.

Research on creep grazing lambs ahead of the rest of the flock shows that this can increase weaning rate by 2kg.

When you have enough grass on the grazing area to last at least 14 days then you should look at removing some of it by taking out a field for silage. When pre-grazing grass covers exceed 8cm (1,100kg/ha), silage is then the best option.

The after-grass in these fields will be invaluable for getting lambs to maintain growth later in the summer, and will also help rebuild feed stocks for the coming winter.

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As well as improving grass growth, the rise in temperatures has kicked off the shearing season and also brought the first of the blow fly strikes on farms.


Shearing has started in many of the lowland flocks in the south and eastern parts of the country. The rise in temperatures has made the task easier with oil rising in wool.

It has also increased the risk of blow fly (maggots) in sheep with dirty, heavy fleeces, so shearing these sheep has added benefits.

The value of wool has increased considerably this year compared to the past few years, 75-80c/kg compared to 40-45c/kg last year. It is important to handle wool carefully to maximise its value.

Shearing sheep that are damp can lead to deterioration in the quality of the wool, so it can be good practice to house sheep the night before shearing to ensure they are dry.

Eliminating dirt and preventing straw, twine and other foreign objects is also stressed by the wool buyers. If you have all your sheep shorn, or want to see the experts in action, then why not visit the All-Ireland Sheep Shearing Championships at Portlaoise Rugby Club on June 5-6.

The first cases of blow fly strike have been seen in lowland flocks, mostly in ewes. Shearing will help to deal with this and controlling blow fly strike is critical for all flocks, as affected lambs will suffer a setback in growth. Dipping and pour-on products are the two options.

When comparing the treatment options for maggot prevention, check the cost per animal treatment, the length of the protection and withdrawal periods.

In the past, plunge dips were the cheaper option but gave a relatively short protection period of 4-8 weeks.

This year there is a reduction in the cost of some pour-on products, and these can give protection for up to 16 weeks.

However, some of these products can also have withdrawal periods of up to 40 days.

Irish Independent