Sheep - extra silage means we can now plan more lambs

At the Timoleague harvest festival pig races was Niamh Harrington, who won the first race
At the Timoleague harvest festival pig races was Niamh Harrington, who won the first race
At a Lleyn sheep open day on Brendan Donnellan's farm at Killure More, Ahascragh, Ballinasloe, Mayo last week were Michael Dolan, John Powell, Donal Kelly, and Bob Taylor. The STAP event was organised by agri-consultant Vincent Costelloe and drew a crowd of 350.
John Large

John Large

With plenty of grass we had to take out eight acres for bailing this week it was gone too strong to graze and yielded five bales per acre. We have enough silage made that should do us for nearly two winters. But one never knows what is around the next corner, it could all be needed sooner rather than later.

With this extra feed we plan to put more ewes in lamb moving up from 600 to 650 for AI and letting the best of the ewe lambs to the ram. When grass grows well it hard work to keep the quality of the sward leafy in order to have lambs thriving at their best.

We let the lambs graze first, followed by the lighter ewes. When they have most of the grass eaten we go in and top the field, leaving the heavier group of dry ewes to clean up what is left.

Then we spread a bag of Pasture Sward to build up grass for the autumn. All ground that has not got any fertiliser in the last month will get one and half bags by the end of August.

This will be the last round of fertiliser for this year.

Just looking back on our condition score records of the ewes for the last few years there was very little difference between 2013 and 2014.

However, when you compare results for July 2012 and this year all ewes have moved up by half a condition score, with 94pc of ewes between 2.5 and 3.5, compared to 63pc in 2012.

This shows what can be achieved in a good year and probably also tells me why my suckler cows are giving me more trouble at calving this year.

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We have three main groups of lambs at present, one on grass with a very high clover content, these lambs are thriving at a rate of 200grs/day or about 1.5kg per week.

We pick from these group every two weeks so that lambs don't get over weight and we therefore wont be giving free meat to the factory.

We try to kill lambs in a weight bracket between 43kg and 46kg so we will have an even batch of lambs to sell together. If lamb are not well enough covered and have the frame to carry more weight we leave them for another two weeks and then they go to a local butcher who kills to a higher weight.

The lambs left after weighing are all given a cobalt dose and left soak in the footbath for half an hour. It is important to keep lambs thriving now and not have too many left when we come to October/ November. To achieve this the three most important things to keep on top of are worms, lameness and minerals (cobalt deficiency for us). The other group of lambs are smaller, less than 40kg, on mostly after-grass or fields that were topped and got fertiliser a month ago. Some of these will not be fit for sale by mid October.

The plan is to sow fodder rape after spring barley. The corn is not harvested yet but hopefully by the end of the week we could be in a position to sow.

Last year we sowed 4kg per acre using a power harrow with a grass seed spreader mounted over the harrow. We applied three bags of 18.6.12 after sowing and sprayed for volunteer barley one month later.

Last year utilisation was excellent and lambs came fit very quickly. Hopefully this year will go as well. The third group are the ewe lambs that we will keep for replacements.

These are on grass only and half of them should be heavy enough to go to the ram by late October.

We sold lambs to a local butcher last week - they killed out nearly 46pc of their live weight and came in to €100 each. This time last year we were getting 25c per kg more which equals to a little over €5 per lamb.

With this reduction in price there will be less repair jobs done on the farm so the yard extension will have to wait for another year.

If the money does not come in sales we can not spend what we do not have.

I do not see any change in the price of meat in our supermarkets to account for the drop in lamb prices.

John Large is a sheep farmer from Co Tipperary

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