With mating, grazing seasons over, it's time to take stock
The recent cold weather has sent grass growth down to single-digit figures on the sheep platform at Lyons Farm in UCD, and the focus on the farm is now on finalising the 2018 grazing season. Ewes will finish grazing on December 10 and will then move on to redstart.
The ewes are currently finishing grazing the back of the hill at Lyons, which will be fully closed this week. They will then move to the front of the hill. We began sequentially closing the farm in mid-October. This is essential to have sufficient grass available at turnout in springtime, and even more so at Lyons as we have a synchronised lambing flock.
The mating season for 2018 was also brought to a close last week, when rams were removed from the ewes following two repeat cycles. The flock will be scanned on December 27 and at that stage we can assign ewes to our various late pregnancy feeding programmes.
The rams are currently indoors receiving some 'TLC' after the mating season but will be turned out again shortly. Ewes were also foot-bathed in a 10pc zinc sulphate solution last week and three ewes received antibiotics for foot-rot. This was recorded and if these animals have another incidence of lameness in the next 12 months then they will be culled from the flock.
Whereas the ewes are cleaning up the farm to set it up for spring grazing, the ewe lambs are being managed as a separate group. The ewe lambs are the future of the flock, and an expensive investment.
While debate continues in the industry as to the merits or otherwise of breeding ewe lambs, it is a central part of our flock management at Lyons. It is crucial, however, that once the ewe lambs are selected for mating, they need to be managed as a separate group.
Unlike the ewe, the ewe lamb and in some cases, hoggets, need to continue to grow during pregnancy. This requires additional feed, and in our case the ewes are grazing reseeded swards with a pre-grazing herbage mass of 1200kg DM/ha. We will monitor growth of these animals at monthly intervals to ensure they are progressing as we want.
There are 28 lambs remaining from the 2018 crop. These lambs are currently grazing redstart.