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How grass supply is up on this Kerry farm despite fertiliser reduction

Tomas O’Leary’s farm is on course for a 100-bale silage surplus for the winter

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Grass diet: Sheep on Tomas O’Leary’s farm in Kerry

Grass diet: Sheep on Tomas O’Leary’s farm in Kerry

The flock grazing on Tomas's farm

The flock grazing on Tomas's farm

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Grass diet: Sheep on Tomas O’Leary’s farm in Kerry

Grass supply has been higher than previous years on Tomas O’Leary’s 40ha (99ac) farm on two blocks on land at Headford, Co Kerry, even with fertiliser nitrogen applications down 25pc.

Up until three weeks ago, it was up 1tDM/ha from last year. However, grass growth has slowed down considerably in recent weeks — hampered by a lack of rain — and now it is only 300kgDM/ha ahead of last year.

A grass walk on June 19 showed that for the first time this year, growth dropped below demand (45kg/ha compared to 58kg/ha). But the farm is 13 days ahead, which is where it should be, and rain is forecast.

Silage budget

A silage budget indicated the need for 600 bales for the winter. There were 150 bales left over from the previous winter.

So far, around 400 bales have been harvested, of which 260 were from a dedicated silage cut and 140 were from paddocks taken out of the grazing rotation.

A second cut of silage is due to be harvested mid-July with an expected yield of 150 bales, which will leave a surplus of around 100 bales for the winter.

Slurry

All the cattle slurry has been spread over the spring time, all using LESS (trailing shoe) at a rate of 2,000 gallons/ac.

Farmyard manure will be spread on the silage ground after the second cut is harvested.

Clover

Tomas oversowed 5ac with Coolfin white clover at a rate of 3kg/ac after a silage cut. Clover seed emergence was quite good, but recent dry conditions appear to be hampering the seedlings.

Sheep performance

Ten lambs have been drafted to date, killing out at 47.4pc and averaging €164.30 prior to deductions, at €8.30/kg. Another 18 lambs are ready to be drafted.

All lambs will be weaned around July 1, and weaned lambs will be moved onto a paddock containing a multi-species sward, which was sown four years ago and now consists of predominantly plantain and perennial ryegrass.

The chicory and most of the white clover has not persisted.

Most lambs are on a grass diet (except for pet lambs and lambs being reared by ewe lambs). After weaning, Tomas will set up a finishing group of lambs that are over 38kg and these will be offered 300g/day of concentrate in addition to good grass until finished.

As lambs are drafted out of this group, more lambs over 38kg from the grass-fed group will be added.

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The flock grazing on Tomas's farm

The flock grazing on Tomas's farm

The flock grazing on Tomas's farm

Replacements

Around 60 ewe lambs will be selected as replacements at weaning time, based on liveweight and the performance history of their dam.

 

Flock health

Lamb worm burdens are being checked on a fortnightly basis using faecal egg counts. The most recent egg count came back at 200 egg per gram (strongyle), which indicates that a treatment is not necessary.

Lambs have only received two nematodirus treatments of benzimidazole (white wormer). Three-quarters of them were treated with CLIK extra in early May, with the more forward lambs treated with Clikzin to control blowfly strike.

Mature ewes were shorn in early May as Tomas has a problem with ewes going on their backs in the spring time. All hogget ewes were shorn middle of June.

Signpost

Tomas is one of the demonstration farmers in the Signpost Programme, adopting practices to reduce gaseous emissions and nutrient losses, manage and enhance biodiversity and reduce costs.

Michael Gottstein is head of Teagasc’s sheep KT Programme, Macroom, Co Cork


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