Farm Ireland

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Sheep: Weather keeps farmers on toes but grass growth is now steady


Tom Murphy, Jenkinstown Co Kilkenny (right) examines his first cut 20ac of silage cut last week by contractor Brian Murphy, with Martin Dempsey, left. Photo: Roger Jones.
Tom Murphy, Jenkinstown Co Kilkenny (right) examines his first cut 20ac of silage cut last week by contractor Brian Murphy, with Martin Dempsey, left. Photo: Roger Jones.
John Fagan

John Fagan

Just when you think things might get quiet on the farm post lambing the weather, good or bad, always manages to keep farmers on their toes. I foot bathed and dosed all the lambs for nematodirus and despite the cold weather they seem to be doing quite well.

I don't see a huge flush of lambs arriving in June and I reckon the processors might just be tighter for numbers in June than they might think.

I got rid of all the cull ewes before the price dropped and it was great to offload them as they were eating valuable grass.

The lambing went reasonably well with 1.65 lambs per ewe from the mature flock and 1.3 from the ewe lambs. I am still feeding the hogget ewes with lambs at foot 0.5 kilos of an 18pc nut per day. I don't normally do this but with the tough end to the month of April I was slightly concerned that they might be under too much pressure to look after both themselves and their lambs.

I have enough feed left for them till the end of this week but with the weather now normalised and grass growth steady, they should be quite capable of fending for themselves. I find with ewe lambs you have to remember that they are still growing and if you want them to re-join the flock in October as a mature ewe then you have to be mindful of their condition at all times.

I brought in the rams and gave them a once over. Although it's a long time till they'll be needed again I like to keep them thriving. I unfortunately lost a good ram to black leg so I subsequently gave them a booster shot of Covexin 8.

I find that black leg can strike just when animals are thriving and maybe get a bump or a bruise which is often the case post handling. I should have given them a booster shot earlier so I've learnt a hard lesson.

Grass has been tight on the farm, and at times I had to supplement the ewes in some paddocks to give other paddocks the chance. Finally they seem to be holding their own on the grass as the effect of the fertiliser has kicked in. You need to give grass re-growths a chance to get going. If you continuously graze them down they will always be on the back foot. With the tightness of grass I haven't yet closed up ground for silage but I will do so as soon as the chance arises.

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I had a little chuckle to myself when I saw that the department intends to add sheep fencing to the TAMS II scheme. I am still awaiting approval for a sheep handling unit that I applied for last August.

I am really grateful that these schemes are available but in order for them to be effective a faster rate of approval and ultimately payment is needed. Otherwise it's pointless.

Taking a look back at the lambing I am reasonably happy. Next year however I am going to go a bit later and start around March 10. I think a lot of sheep farmers are feeling the same way. With mid-season lambing you need to start lambing when you expect grass growth to kick off. My experience in this part of the country is that spring is always late. It is unusual if it's early. I am finding it is not worth the extra costs involved preparing grass any earlier.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

Over the next few weeks I will reseed 20 acres that was in fodder rape during the winter. I also have to get a wild bird cover sown before the end of May to comply with GLAS. I intend to get all my GLAS compliance done and dusted in one swoop so that I can manage it at ease over the course of the next five years. The GLAS scheme is good but I was critical of it in the past as I felt that GLAS II should have allowed hedge planting and individual tree planting. Nevertheless it is great to see funding available for it and a return to a REPS like scheme.

Indo Farming