Star ratings make for easier stock selection


John Large

John Large

All ewes, rams and ewe lambs were shorn during two very busy days on August 24 and 25. This year's improved price will be almost three times what we got in 2009 and should see a profit for a good product and our hard work. We shear at this time of year to have a light fleece on the ewes at housing and lambing. We also get a boost in weight gain before they are mated.

The ewes are divided into two groups, with those in good condition at 3.5 or above. The other group is made up of the thinner ewes that need to put on weight before they go to the ram. This group gets the best grass available. The rams also need to be checked out now rather than leaving them alone until near mating. I feel their feet should be pared since, in my experience, their feet seem to be the hardest to keep right and a lame ram will not follow ewes. Rams should be fit instead of fat. The same could be said of the shepherd.

The ewe lambs were all picked from the information made available from Sheep Ireland. We selected on the basis of the days to slaughter and the maternal traits that have been amalgamated into a star rating. The maternal stars are made up from information on lambing ease, birth weight, lamb survival, ewe weight and litter size. All of these qualities are what we are looking for in a ewe. If she lambs herself and needs very little help to produce lambs fit for market, she's a good one.

Last week, I went to the €uro-star multi-breed ram sale in Kilkenny Mart. This was the first sale with the ram merits being catalogued as star ratings. There were 120 rams from seven different breeds, which were all well presented. The sale was a success and Sheep Ireland deserves credit for putting it together.

I bought three ram lambs, all Texels with five stars for production, lambing and days to slaughter. Their average price was €450. These will be used on the repeat ewes after AI. Two of them will be used on some of the ewe lambs, which will tell us how good their lambing figures are. From my observation, rams that looked the part with good star ratings had no problem finding a buyer. Maybe next year there might be more of these types of sales.

With exceptional grass growth in July, we took out three more paddocks for bales of silage. We got 107 bales, or 6/ac. Any other fields grazed well by the ewes have been topped and are getting one bag of 24:2.2:4/ac in order to have grass for ewes at mating and to build up good quality covers for later in the year. We bought this together with three neighbours which allowed us to order a full load and knock about €25/t off the price.

The lambs are all on Typhon and grass, getting no meal. This crop was slow to get going so we held off grazing for an extra two weeks. Now we are selling a load of lambs almost every week. These lambs are being sold at an average weight of 46kg and killing out at 47pc, so their carcass weights are around 21.5kg. We will be going back onto the second grazing next week and hopefully most of the lambs will be finished by the end of that grazing.

We sprayed off 4ac of old pasture on August 3 and sowed this with 1kg of forage rape mixed with grass seed on August 13. This will be used to finish off the small lambs. We will also sow more forage rape into barley stubble ground. We will use this for ewe lambs in December and January, so I'm banking on not getting another cold, frosty winter like the last two.

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We are already nearly two weeks later sowing this year, so hopefully we get another few weeks of good growth. Last year we mixed stubble turnips with the rape but, on account of it being too late for these turnips to grow much of the bulk now, we will only grow forage rape this year.

John Large farms at Gortnahoe, Thurles, Co Tipperary

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