Temptation to regraze must be avoided

The highest concentration of sheep numbers is in counties along the western seaboard and in the uplands along the east coast
The highest concentration of sheep numbers is in counties along the western seaboard and in the uplands along the east coast
Dan Joe Driscoll, Michael Coomey and Dinny Hennessy from Timoleague pictured at the annual Ballyfeard ploughing at Belgooly Co Cork. Picture Denis Boyle
Tommy Boland

Tommy Boland

The notable drop in temperature and the shortening days are taking their toll on grass growth at Lyons Farm with daily grass growth reduced by more than 50pc since my last article.

It was running at 20kg DM per ha per day at the time of writing. Paddocks are being closed in rotation now as they are grazed out to 4-4.25 cm. The first paddocks closed are showing good regrowth, but the temptation to re-graze these must be avoided.

This grass is of more value in the spring time and we need to be cognisant of slow onset of grass growth in the spring also. The majority of grass available for spring turn out is grown prior to December 1.

We will need an average farm cover for turnout in mid-March of 820kg DM per ha. With moderate spring growth on this site, we are looking at a closing farm cover of approximately 580kg DM per ha.

An extra complicating factor in our management is the synchronised lambing pattern we employ.

This means 80-85pc of the ewes will lamb within a 7-10 day period in March so grass demand is switched on rapidly in spring. We do not want to be short of grass in such a scenario.

The young lamb is most efficient in terms of converting feed into gain. This feed comes in the form of milk, and we must have grass available for the ewes in order to produce this milk in the cheapest way possible.

Rams are now back with the ewes to pick up repeats (we take the rams away 48 hours after initial introduction). Rams are raddled with a different colour for each repeat cycle and this gives an indication of the conception rate to each service, though the final outcome is not known until scanning.

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Ewes, currently running as three separate flocks to facilitate some of our teaching commitments for the B Agr Sc undergraduate program, are separated on the basis of breed, ie Belclare cross, LLeyn cross and Mule. It gives a good opportunity to remind one of the physical differences between these three breed types, but ultimately it will be the performance rather than the appearance of the animals which will dictate the best option for a system like ours.

Elizabeth Earle's PhD work in Athenry under the guidance of Dr Philip Creighton showed clearly that meat produced from ewes of higher prolificacy is more efficient, in terms of requiring fewer kilograms of feed for each kilogram of meat produced. We will compare the different 'breeds' used on Lyons under this heading also.

The ewes are pretty much being left alone at the moment, and will be for another week or two.

Lambs continue to be drafted from Redstart and kill out percentages are good, despite conditions being a little wetter than we would ideally like.

Silage test results

The silage test results came in this week and make for reasonably good reading. Dry matter ranges from 31 to 37 pc, crude protein content from 13.2 to 16.6 pc, dry matter digestibility from 67 to 81 pc and energy content from 10.9 to 12.2 MJ of ME per kg DM.

There will be a fight among the various enterprises at Lyons to get the best quality silage for their animals!

Forage testing is the best money that can be spent on any farm. It allows for accurate decisions on feeding programmes although it is more difficult to get a representative sample when working with silage bales.

The next few weeks will focus on the continued finishing of the remaining lambs and closing the remaining paddocks for spring grazing.

The ewes will hopefully remain outdoors until early in the new year, but this is somewhat weather dependent.

Assoc Prof Tommy Boland lectures in Sheep Production, at Lyons Farm, University College Dublin. @Pallastb email: tommy.boland@ucd.ie

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