Giving land a rest of around 120 days should ensure adequate covers of grass for when ewes and lambs need it most
I’m aiming to maximise the ‘ram effect’ on the ewes this year with a view to tightening up the lambing period. I’m planning to let the rams out on October 22, with the intention of lambing date starting around March 17.
I have placed my rams in the field next to the ewes and there’s a lot of chat taking place among the sheep at the gateways and across fences. I want lambing to be done quickly. In years gone by it has dragged on and on to no benefit, increasing costs.
Also, the later lambing date means that I am coinciding with the beginning of significant grass growth on the farm. With this in mind I am formulating a grazing plan for the farm which basically involves gradually closing up the farm as the winter approaches.
The fields I am closing up first are the ones that will be a priority for me at lambing time — those closest to the lambing shed, with the fields furthest away being grazed during the breeding season.
The Teagasc guidelines for closing up grazing on your farm are 20pc by mid-October, 40-60pc by mid to late November and 80pc by mid-December.
You need to give the land a rest period of roughly 120 days, which should ensure that you will have adequate covers of grass next spring when the ewes and lambs need it most.
Once you close off a field don’t be tempted to go near it until next spring — you’re only codding yourself as you will suppress whatever re-growths are coming and you’ll be out with the cheque book buying in extra feed.
Lambs are continuing to be drafted every two weeks and I am glad that the factories all seem to be paying up to 22kg.
I am really happy with how the redstart worked out for me this year. I under-sowed 1kg of redstart into my reseeded fields last spring and it has helped hugely in finishing off my lambs consistently over the year.
The redstart did not inhibit the grassland establishment and now I have a fine reseeded field of grass and clover, with the redstart gradually being weeded out by the last of my lambs. It’s something that I will repeat next year.
I would like to see the factories move towards electronically paying farmers for their lambs as the cheque-book is now in the Stone Age as more and more people move to internet banking. Sheep farmers have had to electronically tag our lambs I therefore don’t see why the factories should not electronically pay farmers for their lambs, especially with the threat of Covid-19. The farm organisations should insist on this.
In preparing my ewes for the breeding season I noticed that my ewe hoggets were slightly dirtier than the mature ewes. I thought that perhaps they could do with a dose, but I hesitated from just doing a routine fluke and worm dose. I took a faecal sample and sent it to the local lab. They came back clean as a whistle .
Having watched Teagasc’s excellently produced Virtual Sheep Week, I can see that resistance to worms is a very real threat to the sheep industry. We have to be a lot savvier with how we dose our lambs, and regular fecal sampling is key to this — and ultimately cheaper as you will be using fewer doses.
This year, I have missed our KT discussion groups as I have always found them really helpful. Funding for this was ended in 2020, reducing the incentive for farmers to participate — not that we could do much considering everything was cancelled.
But the sooner that they are back up and running the better, and there should be no limit to who can attend. One criticism I’d have for KT was that it was largely closed off to younger new-entrant farmers — the very people who would benefit the most from it.
For those of you who didn’t get to see the Virtual Teagasc Sheep week, all the sessions are on Teagasc.ie. They are a must see for sheep farmers and now you can do it from your own home, although you’d miss the chat and the custard creams.
John Fagan farms in Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath