Put a grazing plan in place now and reap rewards in spring
Now that October has arrived, it is time to start putting a grazing plan in place. Grassland management really starts in October - we need to ensure we have enough grass next spring.
Proper grassland management in the back end of the year can reduce the dependence on concentrates and silage next spring.
What we farmers do over the next few weeks has a huge impact on next spring. So sit down and do up a plan.
Plans can change, but if you have a plan in place, you have an idea of where you are going to graze next and what paddocks are going to be closed up first.
Closing date will have a big effect on the amount of grass available on sheep farms next spring.
Grass requires a 120-day period to rejuvenate and for covers to build up over the winter months.
I will try to have 20pc of the farm closed by late October, 40pc by mid-November, 60pc by late November and 80pc by mid-December, when most of the ewes will be housed.
The most important thing is to eat out paddocks well before you close them, as grass left will die off over the winter and have slower growth next spring.
Another thing is that once a field is closed, do not grass again until next March. Grass is worth twice as much in spring for ewe-rearing lambs than keeping dry ewes out for an extra few weeks in late December.
We are sponging the first ewes on September 30 in preparation for AI on October 14. The second lot will follow three days later.
We will weigh all the ewes and condition score them at sponging. Any tags that are damaged or lost will be retagged.
The rams used will be from pedigree breeders and have a high star rating. We will use possibly 15 rams over the two days from five different breeds.
The rams arrive on the farm the morning of AI with semen collected and used fresh. This gives a better conception rate, of hopefully 75pc.
My most important job is to make sure ewes are empty and allowed no water for 12 hours before AI. This makes the AI technician's job much easier and gives me a higher conception rate, with more lambs born in the first two weeks.
As a CPT flock, our job is to record information on the progeny of the rams we use - this is sent to Sheep Ireland and then used to assess the merits of each ram.
Comparisons between rams can be assessed because they all have lambs born at the same time and are treated the same for their lifetime.
The weather at the moment is not helpful on any farm. We gave two weeks trying to get straw bailed, but now at least it is in the shed - not as much or of as good a quality as other years but hopefully we have enough to get through the winter.
We will use dry peat under the calves to save on some straw. Grass is not as plentiful as this time last year and a lot harder to manage. We will put most of the lambs that are left on fodder rape when we get a few fine days together. This will leave what grass we have for the ewes after mating.
My cows and calves could be in early too as ground conditions deteriorate on the out farm.
We have plenty of silage for them but the cows will get some meal when housed at least until they are gone back in calf.
No two years are the same but maybe a change in weather would give us all some relief.
John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Thurles, Co Tipperary
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