Tommy Boland: Strong spring grass growth ensures ewes are holding their condition well

File photo
File photo
Tommy Boland

Tommy Boland

Grass growth at Lyons in the week to April 24 was 70kg DM per ha per year.

Our ewes are now in the sixth/seventh week of lactation so each ewe plus lamb(s) unit has a daily feed demand of 3.75kg DM per day.

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At a stocking rate of 12.5 ewes per ha, this equates to a daily feed demand per ha of 47kg DM per ha, leaving plenty of space for ground being closed for silage.

Last week we had all ewes and lambs through the yards for foot bathing and a nematodirus dose.

This year we used Albex 2.5pc. Some lambs were showing signs of nematodirus infection and growth was slightly back on where we had hoped for, so we are confident the dose was required.

In all, we turned out 51 ewes with triplets at foot. At six weeks of age there were 150 live lambs with this group of ewes.

One lamb died since turnout and two lambs were taken back into the pet pen as their mothers did not have enough milk to rear all three lambs.

Following birth the triplet ewes received 1.5kg concentrates per head per day indoors plus ad lib access to high quality grass silage.

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When turned out at about 10 days post lambing ewes received 1kg concentrates at grass for one week, which was reduced to 0.75kg the following week and ewes are currently receiving 0.5kg concentrates per day which will be phased out in the coming days.

The more sheltered paddocks on the farm are being used for this triplet grazing group. Ewes and lambs are grazing down to 5.5cm with the swards then being cleaned out by in-calf heifers. Creep feed was introduced to lambs at about two weeks of age.

The plan is to wean these lambs onto redstart in May at about nine to 10 weeks of age, depending on growth of the redstart crop which was sown approximately ten days ago. We have recorded very good results with animals grazing redstart from August onwards in previous years, and this year we are hoping to take advantage of that with the triplets.

We are also very happy with the decision to leave an additional 51 lambs on their ewes, rather than artificially rearing them.

There was a cryptosporidium outbreak in the artificially reared lambs, which led to deaths, a lot of work treating lambs and a slower start to life than targeted for the survivors.

Ewes at pasture are holding their condition well with an average body condition score of 2.7 at six weeks.

The next month sees Jonathan Higgins continue his preparations for his next trial as part of his PhD studies.

This will look at maximising the contribution of home grown forages to the diet of the ewe and lamb throughout the year. There will be a particular focus on reducing the requirement for housing animals over winter, and when they are housed to maximise the contribution of good quality silage to meeting the energy and protein requirements of the ewe.

Joe Jones has also joined the sheep research team at Lyons. Joe will complete his PhD investigating the impact of multispecies swards on the performance of cattle and sheep in a mixed grazing system as part of the SMARTSWARD project funded by the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine.

Professor Tommy Boland is an associate professor in sheep production at Lyons Farm, University College Dublin. Twitter: @Pallastb Email:

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