Weather, wool and lamb price all better than '09
All slurry and fertiliser is now spread. We spread the slurry on silage fields at 2,000ga/ac. We put one bag of 27pc Net on the rest of the farm from August 20 to September 3 and after the recent rain we hope to get a good response.
I'm relieved we bought the fertiliser when we did -- apparently it had gone up by €20/t three days later. I buy all my fertiliser in bulk now through a buying group that I've been involved in for nearly 10 years. We've managed to keep the price to a minimum by buying a truck load at a time and getting him to deliver to one centrally located farm. We then unload the truck so that the delivery charges are as low as possible. The farm that I collected my allocation from was four miles away but I believe the money I was saving on each tonne more than compensated for the time I spent collecting it.
The grass seed and forage rape sowed at the end of July should grow well now after the rain. We have sowed two more fields of forage rape direct into barley stubble at 4kg/ac. We sowed the first field on August 10 and the second on August 16. These were spread with one bag of Super Net on September 3. We hope to use this to feed ewe-lambs in November and December.
The only thing now is that we may have to spray for volunteer barley. If this happens we will also include some Boron.
All ewes are now shorn and this year is a complete turn-around compared to the last few years, in that it left me with a profit. I ended up with 88c/kg and an average of 2.5kg/ewe. The shearer charged me the same as he always has -- €2/ewe.
We also had the ewe lambs shorn. We gave two days to paring the ewes' feet. Most of the ewes are turned over in a crate mounted in a race. Any ewes with overgrown feet are then pared. I put in a group foot-bath a few years ago that will hold about 70 ewes at a time.
I leave them standing in a zinc sulphate solution for about 20 minutes while I pare away at the next batch. Then I leave them standing on clean concrete for another 30 minutes. It's a great system to cure the ewes' feet before lambing. I believe the bath is the best investment I ever made on the farm, but I wish I had put a roof over it to keep out the rain and stop the water from evaporating.
Buying grain direct
I bought 20t of barley direct from my brother. It came in at 16pc moisture so it'll store perfectly. The price will certainly be up on the €100/t I paid last year but I'm hoping he'll go easy on me! We will use this barley to make up ration for ewes before lambing, by mixing with pulp and soya. Some of the barley will be rolled. Straw is now collected and stored. We bale this ourselves as my brother and I share machinery for round-bale silage making.
Lamb sales are going well, with 40 lambs going for slaughter every two weeks. We pick our lambs from both groups. Lambs on Typhon are killing out better -- by 2pc -- than those on grass, so we aim to pick heavier lambs off grass. All lambs are weighed, tag numbers noted, and information is sent to ICBF. The price is 20pc better than last year, which is also a great help. About half of our culled ewes are sold again at much better prices.
All lambs are Quality Assured through the Board Bia Scheme. To me, Quality Assurance is important and I try to produce a uniform, well-presented group of lambs fed on home-grown feed or bought from a known source. By doing this I can guarantee the consumer a quality product with full traceability.
- John Large and his wife, Sheila, farm 85ha at Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary. They have three children, Christopher (21), Dearbhail (19) and Sinead (15).
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