Potential is there to produce a lot of feed in a short time-span

File photo
File photo
John Large

John Large

As we come to the end of 2018, grass supplies are almost all grazed off now. The next move for our ewes is to either put them inside and feed silage and hay or find another source of feeding for them.

This year we have enough brassica crops and fodder beet tops to keep half the ewes outside until the end of January.

After a very good end to the year, with plenty of good-quality grass and weather that allowed us to graze out fields, ewes have increased in body weight since mating.

It is very important not to let ewes lose weight at this time of year as when grass supply is scarce they can lose weight quickly.

By feeding now we will try hold them in good condition, and with meal going to be expensive there is no point in letting ewes lose weight and then have to spend extra money to try and get it back as they come nearer to lambing.

We will scan the end of December and keep all the ewes carrying triplets inside so we can feed them extra meal.

Any ewes that are marked as repeats or show up empty at scanning time will be left out-side on the fodder beet tops and scanned again in early February. These will not lamb until April so they will not have to get meal feeding until March 1.

We have about 80pc of this year's lambs sold now. After a difficult spring and a dry summer we, like most people, had to feed a lot of extra meal.

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When it is all paid for there will not be much left of the lamb price. Lambs did thrive well in the dry weather, possibly because worm burden was low and very few lame lambs due to short grass and no messed-up ground at feeders.

We learned that when lambs get ad-lib meal it is very easy to go over-weight, with some even getting to a fat score of four.


This can cost you money, especially when you sell on a grading system of payment. It is even more important to weigh every two weeks and move on lambs quickly.

The remainder of our lambs are nearly all on fodder rape, getting no meal.

We divide the field into two-acre plots, getting one week's grazing for 230 lambs from each plot.

These lambs have been on the rape for four weeks now and next week we hope to get half of them off to the factory.

The remainder should go in January, just to make sure we will feed some meal.

We have 40 more small lambs that are getting meal and silage on a grass field. These will be a while before they go to the factory, or they may be sold as stores in the new year.

Our ewe-lambs are on grass only. None of them have been put to the ram this year. We have about 20 acres of a mix of stubble turnips and rape which we will have for grazing when the grass is all gone.

This crop was sown the last days of August and has grown really well.

If we learned anything this year it is that ground does not have to be left idle from harvest in August to sowing again in March/April.

There are five months that can be utilised with some other crops. I know this year was different - soil temperatures were high, rain came in September and then growth lasted well into November.

I know from previous experiences all years do not give the yield we have achieved this year, but in a year when the harvest is early we know the potential is there to produce a lot of extra feed in a short space of time.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

Indo Farming

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