Tommy Boland: The long awaited rainfall gives a timely boost to lambs' growth rate on aftergrass

Joe Wall and Brendan Byrne present the cup for the best pen of ten Suffolk Cross to Hilda Rothwell at the Bagenalstown Ewe Breeders Assocation show and sale in Borris. Photo: Roger Joines.
Joe Wall and Brendan Byrne present the cup for the best pen of ten Suffolk Cross to Hilda Rothwell at the Bagenalstown Ewe Breeders Assocation show and sale in Borris. Photo: Roger Joines.
Tommy Boland

Tommy Boland

Some normality has returned to the grass growth pattern at Lyons Farm, with a growth rate of 64kg of dry matter per heactare per day achieved in the week to August 27.

This came on the back of some much needed rainfall in August even though we have only had about 60pc of our normal rainfall for August.

This improved growth rate in August has allowed for 100 bales of silage to be made.

The drought of 2018 will live long in the memory with the combined rainfall of May to August representing only 43pc of the 10 year rolling average.

Lamb growth rate is continuing on a positive trend on after-grass and 80 lambs were slaughtered last Friday.

At the time of writing the kill sheets were not available.

There is another load of 70 lambs to go this week, which continues to free up land for preparing the ewes for mating.

The latest faecal egg count (FEC) shows very low parasite burdens, one of the positive side effects of the dry summer, so lambs have not been drenched in the last month.

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A cobalt drench was administered at the most recent weighing.

As documented previously we are preparing for the second year of our comparison of different prolificacy strains. For the duration of this study we will purchase replacement females each year. This year, as we continue to build ewe numbers, and on the back of a higher than predicted culling rate following the difficult spring 115 replacement females have been purchased.

These replacements are across all three breed types and consist of predominantly hoggets and ewe lambs though a small number of aged ewes were also purchased to help finalise the flock structure.

All ewes will be shorn this week, weather permitting.

This is a move away from the traditional management at Lyons but there are two interlinked reasons for it.

Firstly, we want to keep the ewes out later in the winter on Redstart and forage rape to reduce the housing costs.

Secondly, when we turn out a large portion of the sheep platform is rather exposed so a short fleece regrowth interval would present very challenging conditions for our ewes in the spring time.

Following arrival on the farm, ewes are enrolled in a strict bio security protocol which will see them isolated from the main flock for six weeks.

Sheeps' feet are inspected on arrival to minimise the risk of introduction of CODD and ewes will be foot bathed every week until introduction to the main flock.

Any sheep showing signs of lameness will have the foot examined and the cause of the lameness will be identified.


On arrival all sheep received quarantine drenches for fluke and worms to minimise the risk of introducing resistant parasites.

All sheep at Lyons will also be enrolled in our vaccination programs (many of the purchased animals are already in these programs) which covers toxoplasmosis, enzootic abortion and obviously the clostridial diseases.

In addition to the replacement females, nine rams were also purchased at the Sheep Ireland sale in Tullamore. These consist of predominantly Charollais rams, with some Vendeen purchased off farm also.

The Redstart which was established after whole crop wheat in mid-July continues to forge ahead, with the rainfall coming just at the right time. It is the intention to take a DM yield off this next week and allow us to plan the grazing of this crop.

The next month will also see a continued focus on drafting lambs and the preparation of both ewes and rams for mating in mid-October.

Assoc Prof Tommy Boland is a lecturer in Sheep Production, Lyons Farm, University College Dublin. @Pallastb

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