Ship shape in Donegal
Feeding and breeding management changes have paid strong dividends for Michael Duffy this year
Completing the lambing operation, getting the grass growing and preparing the flock to avail of the better weather throughout the summer has been the focus for sheep farmers over the last two months.
Michael Duffy's farm at Kerrykeel on the Fanad Peninsula, approximately 23kms north of Letterkenny, is no different. It's been a good spring for Michael with the changes he has implemented this year paying dividends.
"Things have gone much better for me this spring," said Michael. "At the minute I have a good grass supply, the silage crop is looking good and lambs seem to be thriving well. As a result I will probably increase my ewe numbers by 40 to the 2015 number of 400."
When asked why 2016 went better than 2015 he replied: "All the changes that I made worked well. The increased feeding from Christmas ensured that the ewes lambed down in better body condition. I had more ground rested from October/November, got nitrogen out in mid-March, delayed the lambing date and reduced ewe numbers by 10pc which left me with adequate grass at all times from ewe turnout."
This is a quite a contrast from 2015 and it is also a different picture from what the majority of farmers experienced this spring. Because of the poor weather in April and up until mid-May most farmers were scarce on grass until May 15.
Michael's silage was cut last Thursday, having been closed on April 21. "My main priority is to make top quality silage (75pc + DMD) - I am not too concerned about the yield," he said. "The weather last week was ideal for silage making and the sugar test on the fresh grass read 3pc. I went for a 48 hour wilt and the grass was left in the sward and not tedded.
"The wilt will increase the sugar percentage ensuring good preservation and reduce effluent produced. I have 15 acres closed and I will also cut four acres that was earmarked for grazing but I left it to grow out since May 13. I will also close a 3ac grazing field this week for cutting in mid-July. This will get 70 units N/acre and will be made as baled silage."