Striking right balance key to managing grass growth


John Large

John Large

We eventually got the fields ready for reseeding, having finally got them sprayed on May 19. We put the cows and calves in four days later to graze them off. One field that was not grazed for five weeks was sprayed and then mowed five days later for bales of silage.

The grass-seed mix will be the same as last year -- CanCan, Trend and Tyrella with 2kg of clover mix. We will also mix in 1kg of Typhon seed. This is a forage crop which will be used to finish lambs on. The grass-seed was purchased through our discussion group. In total about 200ac was ordered together.

We also buy vaccine and dosing in bulk lots. These bulk purchases save us time, money and we also know the proper price. The bonus for the supplier is that they are guaranteed to get all their money together. There is definitely scope for more of this type of purchasing.

If groups of farmers put their orders together they will have a lot more buying power and more interested suppliers. The key is payment because this is the most important thing the group has to offer.

Grass at this time of the year can be hard work to manage correctly. You either have too little due to slow growth and you end up going in with meal, or too much which goes stemmy and of poor quality. Our ewes and lambs are now being grazed in four groups. We do this so we graze out paddocks quickly and lambs are allowed graze ahead of the ewes.

The triplet lambs that were used to eating meal are now mixed with the twins. This group is the best to graze the next paddock because all we do is place a creep feeder outside the gate with a small amount of meal given each morning. When the ewes have the grass eaten down to 5cm, we top the paddock. After this round of grazing we will spread 20 units of nitrogen so we will have nice leafy grass for the lambs next time round, which should be in three weeks when most of the lambs will be weaned. If the paddock is too big for the group of sheep we divide it with electric sheep netting as we do not want to stay in the area being grazed for longer than four days.

Even during poor growing days like we have now, the re-growth in three days is surprising. We grazed a 6.3ac paddock in two sections last week and intended to top it all together, but the side grazed first had too much re-growth on it so only the second half was topped. It proves that the system requires us to focus on growing, grazing and moving on.

We dosed all the March-born lambs for the second time using Cydectin, giving them 5ml each. This dose should do until mid-July. We try not to have anything to do to the lambs at weaning, as the less stress the better.

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We give all the lambs 1ml of Covexin at dosing and they will get a booster shot three weeks later. This should cover any closteridial disease at weaning. All the ewes are now dagged but no Clik has been put on yet. The only case of fly strike was in one dry hogget.

All the hoggets were given a long-acting Cydectin injection in March. This worked very well with a good thrive and only a few dirty ones. Any hoggets not with lambs are going to the Sheep Shearing Competition in Kilkenny this weekend.

Two fields were cut for silage last Thursday. These will be baled at the weekend. With the good weather forecast, quality should be good. With ground conditions also very dry, there shouldn't be much soil contamination, leaving these bales good enough for the ewes next winter.

John Large is a sheep farmer at Gortnahoe, Thurles, Co Tipperary

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