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Ready for lambing but silage tests show that changes may be required


Lambing is just four weeks away. Photo: Getty Images.

Lambing is just four weeks away. Photo: Getty Images.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lambing is just four weeks away. Photo: Getty Images.

Preparation at the Mask View flock for lambing is almost complete. The lambing sheds have been power washed, disinfected with Sorgene and the lambing pens (5ft x 5ft) have been built.

Infrared lamps are now in place and ready for action. I decided to purchase an automatic lamb feeder (Volac Ewe 2) this year, which will help with the large amount of triplets that are expected.

This will save time spent feeding pet lambs and I believe it will give better thrive than bottle feeding lambs. I will still continue to try and foster some lambs onto ewes with single lambs and will have the automatic feeder in reserve.

The twin bearing ewes that are being fed out and not due till March are now receiving 500g/hd/day. The single bearing ewes are getting feed buckets and will begin concentrate feeding in the coming weeks.

The Bluefaced Leicester ewes are less than three weeks away from lambing and are getting 1kg/hd/day with 10-15g of Lactaid (stabilised yeast) and hay.

The embryo recipient ewes are now less than a week away from lambing and I hope I have everything ready and in place for the coming season.

The triplet bearing ewes have been housed and some single ewes have been housed also to allow for adoptions.

I have had my silage and grass analysed for feed value and for minerals. I was relatively happy with my silage results considering the system I have in place, but improvements can still be made. I have never placed much emphasis on silage quality as I usually feed a high percentage of concentrates to ewes prior to lambing and because ewes are generally lambed outside.

Perhaps this is an area that I should investigate as the cost of concentrates contributes to a large portion of farm expenditure.

Silage values

* Dry matter of 37pc

* Crude protein 12pc

npH 4.82

* D value 67.2pc

* ME 10.8 Mj/Kg

This result is for big bale silage that was cut at the end of June. I compromised some quality for bulk. I did not make much silage this year as I have reduced cattle numbers and I made hay instead.

Crude protein level is average, the dry matter percentage is quite high. I believe that this high level of dry matter has resulted in a poor drop in pH to 4.82 with fermentation not completed fully.

There is very little evidence of acids in the silage and, in particular, there is a very low level of lactic acid. I would prefer to see a pH closer to 4.0 and a higher level of lactic acid.

The sugars in the silage are quite high, an indicator that little sugar was used to make lactic acid and therefore reduced fermentation has taken place.

Some of these sugars should be converted into lactic acid to ensure a more stable and more efficient silage making process. Digestibility, or D-value, at 67.2pc was compromised for bulk.

To calculate your ME energy value, multiply this D-value by 0.16. If I decide to use more silage to replace concentrate feeding, I will have to cut my silage earlier to produce a better quality product.

I have a small amount of mould present on bales which could potentially be disease causing. It is something I will have to investigate and see if it will suit my system or if high concentrate feeding suits me better.

If I change systems to reduce concentrates and use more silage I will have to make a better quality product and perhaps use an inoculant to improve D-value, by preserving the silage much better and preventing clostridia and mould growth.

The grass mineral results showed that grass has good levels of N, P and K but had deficiencies in all trace elements, some more than others.

This low level of trace elements was accompanied by a very high level of molybdenum which is known for locking up copper and reducing the availability of the mineral.

I was aware that there were trace mineral deficiencies on the farm from years of experience, but this analysis has reinforced what the main problems are.

I think it is important to check what deficiencies are present on farm, so effective treatment and preventions can be put in place.

Time and money can be wasted using minerals and worm drenches that are not needed on the farm and therefore testing to identify what is needed is the most efficient way to counteract deficiencies and to target specific worm species.

Tom Staunton is a sheep farmer from Tourmakeady, Co Mayo.

Irish Independent