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Monday 10 December 2018

Consistency of weight is more important than grading on lamb kill-out

All ewes will be weighed and condition scored at the same time. File photo
All ewes will be weighed and condition scored at the same time. File photo
John Large

John Large

With the arrival of colder mornings and evenings starting so early, we know that mating time for the ewes is not far away.

We will start to AI the ewes on October 15, with sponges being inserted 14 days beforehand.

All ewes will be weighed and condition scored at the same time. It will be interesting to see what the difference will be when compared to last year.

This time last year we were finding it hard to graze off paddocks. That won't be a problem this year - we are still feeding all the lambs, the heaviest are on ad-lib meal and doing very well.

We go through these every two weeks and draft off what is fit to sell. The last lot weighed 44kg live and slaughtered at 20.2kg, giving us a kill-out of 46pc. They all graded well with about one third of them U and the rest R. All had a fat score of 3.

It is very important when weighing the lambs live to put them in a few hours beforehand so you are not weighing them when they are full of grass and meal.

This way you will have a more even bunch to kill and I think this is what the processors want.

Grades are not the most important issue; consistency of weight is what really matters. - 70pc of our lambs graded R3 and in the correct weight band.

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These are targets we work to produce as cheaply as we can, so by drafting regularly we do not let them go over-weight and won't be feeding them to put on extra weight which we give free to the factories.

When we sell lambs from the ad-lib meal group they are replaced with lambs that are being fed 0.5kg of meal in troughs.

This way they are only on ad-lib meal for at most four weeks before slaughter.

We have one other group of smaller lambs, about 32kg, on good grass and 250gms of meal. These will not be finished until later. They will be moved onto Forage Rape in early October, with all lambs gone off grazing ground by mid-October, that is the rule.

Forage crops

The forage crops were sown at weekly intervals during August as ground became available.

The first field sown on August 2 has grown very well and will be fit for grazing in October after eight weeks growth.

The next field was sown one week later and this one is a month behind in growth.

It will not be fit to graze until November and will not even produce as much feed as the one sown earlier. Our only weed problem is volunteer barley.

We are overall spraying with a half rate of Falcon, we are also mixing in a half rate of Boron. Volunteer barley has a huge effect on the rape especially where the rows of straw are after the combine.

I think if it wasn't sprayed it could potentially smother out the rape.

We sowed a a mix of rape and leafy turnip on August 20 and this has grown really quickly.

This field got slurry after straw was moved and we disced the field before sowing. We will look at discing all fields before sowing in future, it seems to give a better seed bed. The earlier you can sow the better.

To get a big crop we should try and sow in early August after Winter Barley.

It is true what people say: a day's growth in early August is worth more than a week in September.

I'm off to the Ploughing this week and will be on the Farming Independent stand on Wednesday morning.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

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