The sheep will graze the silage ground immediately post turnout in March, after which they will moved up to the hill until weaning time.
This year will see a major change to the grazing management of the flock with grazing systems research as part of Connie Grace's PhD study.
Four farmlets have been established on the hill with the final fencing works due to commence this week. These farmlets represent a range of herbage mixes including perennial ryegrass only; perennial ryegrass plus clover; grass, legume and herb mixes consisting of two species of each; and a nine way mix, consisting of three grass species, three herb species and three legume species.
This project is multi-factorial with the impacts of the various mixtures on bio-diversity, soil nutrient status, herbage production and animal performance all being assessed.
Each farmlet will be operated as a closed system and stocked initially at 12.5 ewes per hectare.
Updates will be provided as the season progresses, but for now we just need the frosty conditions of the past couple of weeks to lift in order for growth to kick off.
On the remainder of the farm where paddocks were closed in mid-October there are good covers of grass available at the moment, highlighting the benefit of closing off pastures early in the autumn.
It will soon be time to recruit some of the second year Ag Science students from UCD to assist with the lambing activities.
The labour requirement will be greatly reduced because we are not milking any ewes this year, but the upside should be that the students have more time to study some of the nuances of animal behaviour around lambing time.
It is interesting how some ewes will advertise the fact that they are going to give birth for hours before hand, while others would nearly do the job as soon as you have your back turned. It certainly makes it interesting - and difficult - to predict with any great certainty when a ewe is going to give birth.
An on-going issue at lambing time is ewes that give birth without milk.
While the occasional case is almost unavoidable, a more frequent occurrence points to a management problem. The key aspects to consider are the energy and protein intakes of the ewe.
The forage quality is linked to this, along with how is the feed managed, ewe access to the concentrates, how frequently are they fed, and whether all ewes actually eat.
If all of this checks out, then you need to consider flock health, especially in terms of lameness and internal parasites.
Something that can't be dismissed is ewes lambing down with a very high body condition score.
These ewes will initially be very slow to come into their milk as the hormones responsible for controlling milk production are affected by the level of fat in the body.
I will cover this topic in more detail in this month's lambing supplement.
Dr Tommy Boland is lecturer in sheep production and ruminant nutrition at UCD's Lyons research farm at Newcastle, Co Dublin