John Large: Exceptional start to the year has given us a grass boost
It's been an exceptional start to the New Year with land dry enough for ploughing, hedge-cutting and slurry spreading. Long may it continue.
It's been an exceptional start to the New Year with land dry enough for ploughing, hedge-cutting and slurry spreading. Long may it continue.
As we come to the end of 2018, grass supplies are almost all grazed off now. The next move for our ewes is to either put them inside and feed silage and hay or find another source of feeding for...
We put the rams out with all the ewes on October 29 to pick up repeats after AI.
After a difficult year for growing grass and the subsequent fodder deficit on a lot of farms, especially in the southern and eastern counties, it is now time to start thinking about next spring's...
With the arrival of colder mornings and evenings starting so early, we know that mating time for the ewes is not far away.
Last month I was keeping fingers crossed for a few weeks of fine weather but for the two weeks of lambing all we got was a few fine days.
By the time this article reaches is published, lambing should be in full swing in the aftermath of the storm.
Now that we are only five weeks away from lambing, the focus is on the end game. Now all the twin ewes are on .5kg of meal per day and those carrying triplets receive .75kg. We are feeding those with triplets twice a day.
We were out of the blocks early for 2018 with scanning of the ewes taking place on New Year's Day.
With all ewes having undergone AI in two groups on October 16 and 18, the pressure is off for another year.
It is hard to believe that we didn't have rain of any quantity for six weeks until last weekend.
We should be finished lambing by May 1. About half the ewe-lambs have lambed now. They performed well; the singles lambed mostly themselves and had enough milk for their lamb. They were only...
With lambing well underway the first lot of ewes are coming to an end.
We have just three weeks to get everything ready for lambing which kicks off on March 6. All ewes have gotten their booster shot of Covexin 10 to cover the ewe from Chlostridial diseases and...
All ewes were housed the second week of December and fed good round-bale silage. The ewes were scanned on December 31 which was...
After another month of very little rain on our farm, grass is still in scarce supply.
With no sign of any big amount of rain in the near future, grass supply remains almost non-existent in the southern part of the country. Having to feed meal to most of the lambs is adding a big cost to the primary producer.
There seems to be a new challenge around every corner and this year is definitely providing them.
After an extremely difficult and late spring everything has changed for the better.
We are nearly finished lambing with just a few late ewes and hoggets left now. As they lamb they are kept inside for a few days. We are still very tight for grass especially on the fields that were grazed first.
Now that October has arrived, it is time to start putting a grazing plan in place. Grassland management really starts in October - we need to ensure we have enough grass next spring.
As summer draws to a close preparation for the breeding season should be well underway. Management decisions between now until mating in mid-October will have a big influence on a successful lambing next spring.
THE lambs are all weaned and divided into groups according to their weight and how near they are to slaughter.
Now that all the ewes that lambed in early March are weaned, it is time to start getting ewes ready for their next breeding season.
After waiting for the rain to arrive, the big change has obviously been the explosion in grass growth. The trick now is to manage this grass to get the best value from it for the ewes and lambs.
As we come to the end of 2016, grass supplies are almost all grazed off and housing is the next move for our flock. Most of the mature ewes will be housed at the end of this week and put on a diet of silage until the end of the month when they will be scanned.
We have all the rams out with the ewes since October 31 to pick up any ewes that did not hold to AI. After the first day, when the rams were obviously very excited, there has not been much activity and not many ewes are marked yet.
We have been busy over the last few weeks preparing ewes for the Central Progeny Test (CPT) AI. All ewes were sponged the first week of October.
Now that grass growth is starting to slow down we are trying to build covers for October and November. With lamb sales continuing every two weeks, numbers are starting to decrease allowing more ground freed up for the ewes. This will help to get them ready for mating, which is due to start on October 15.
As I start to write this article, I can hear the rain falling gently on the roof of the house. I'm not sorry, as ground has really dried out in this part of the country over the past week or two.
Now that all ewes have been weaned and shorn our attention has turned to preparing for the next breeding season. At this stage it is less than 12 weeks away.
With nearly all the silage made in very good conditions, next winter's fodder should be of very good quality.
It is hard to believe that this time last month we were putting out beet for the ewes.
How different each year can be. This time last year we were cutting out feeding meal to the ewe lambs that were rearing lambs.
The main lambing is over for another year, and I can't say I'm sorry to see the end of it.
There are only four weeks left before lambing starts so the next big job is to give the Covexin 10 booster injection to all the ewes due to lamb during the first two weeks in March.
With all ewes housed since mid December our days are kept busy feeding stock and getting any maintenance jobs done about the yard. We replaced most of the uprights holding the feed rail in one shed. The original ones had become weak and the feed rail was starting to fall over.
AS November draws to a close and grass supplies start to get scarce, winter housing and feeding are not far away.
With the last lot of ewes in-seminated on October 15, we let out the rams to catch any repeat ewes last week. The repeats should start to show signs of heat 17 days after their last cycle. Hopefully we will not have too many ewes repeating.
During the last week of September we sponged all the ewes that will be inseminated next week (October 12-15). The ewes are also being weighed, condition scored and checked for lameness. All the information is being recorded by a technician from Sheep Ireland.
We are now just five weeks away from the start of our breeding season and the ewes have been divided into three groups.
The Irish National Sheepdog trials are taking place this week in Johnstown Co Kilkenny, just a few miles from where we live.
With nearly all lambs weaned, we have some booked into our local butcher for next week.
After the last few weeks of cold nights and plenty of rain, grass growth has slowed down. We are not under pressure yet for grass but we could do with a good spurt of growth soon as lambs are getting older and starting to consume bigger quantities of grass.
Lambing is all but finished with only 13 ewes left to lamb. The ewe-lambs gave very few problems with nearly all of them lambing by themselves and most taking to mothering the lambs. The ones that had twins were no bother but a few of them are finding the going tough to rear two lambs.
Now that the main lot of ewes have lambed, the pressure is off for at least a week. They decided to start five days earlier March 1. The last ewe lambed on March 17, so over 17 days we had 470 ewes lambed with 850 live lambs. Most are out in the fields, but there are still some in the shed. This works out at an average of 26 ewes lambed per day, but with a peak of 80 on the wettest day, down to just one on Paddy's Day.
We scanned the repeat ewes and the ewe-lambs at the end of January. Now that we have all the figures our scan results are as follows - 1.78 lambs per ewe to the ram. We had 32 empty ewes, most of these were sold last week.
Ewes have been scanned and divided into groups according to the number of lambs they are carrying and their condition score. From the 623 ewes served by AI, we have 531 in-lamb, which works out at very close to 85pc.
Now that another year is almost finished it is time to have a look back and see how we performed throughout the year. Everyone knows what a good year it was for grass-growth and utilisation. But, I also remember last March and April when we fed meal to most of the lambed ewes outside. We fed them for two reasons. Firstly, grass was a bit slow to start growing due to the late application of nitrogen. Secondly, a bit of meal gives the ewes more energy to produce milk for her lambs. Plenty of milk gives the lambs a great start in the first few weeks. I will feed all twin ewes again for...
We have the rams out with the ewes covering any repeats. The number does not seem very high with only a scattering of red and blue marked ewes in each group.
By the time this article appears, all our ewes will have been serviced by AI. How quickly a year goes. We served 330 ewes on October 12 and the remaining 310 four days later.
WITH grass still growing well, we have not been affected by drought as we got some rain when needed.
With plenty of grass we had to take out eight acres for bailing this week it was gone too strong to graze and yielded five bales per acre. We have enough silage made that should do us for nearly two winters. But one never knows what is around the next corner, it could all be needed sooner rather than later.
Now all ewes have been weaned and shorn. They are divided into three groups, the small number of ewes between condition score 2.0 and 2.5 are with the ewe lambs getting good grass. These ewes need plenty of grass and no hardship for the next 10 weeks. They need to put on about 12kgs before mating to get to their proper condition score of 3.5.
All hay and silage has been saved after what can only be described as a great two weeks of weather. Only paddocks that go too strong for grazing will be bailed as silage from now on.
A lot of silage has been saved in our area over the last two weeks. From reading the reports in the newspapers, other parts of the country have not fared as well, with even talk of cattle having to be re-housed.
We have had a big increase in grass growth over the last few dry weeks, allowing us to cease all meal feeding for the ewes. Only one group of lambs is being creep-fed. These are made up of ewes rearing triplets, thin twin ewes and a few ewes that got mastitis since lambing. These lambs are eating about 0.4kg per head.
Lambing is as good as finished with only 20 ewes left. It was a hard month's work, but we were very lucky with the weather.
With lambing just about started, it will be all hands on deck for the next 10 days. We have about 12 ewes lambed over the last few days, with good strong lambs and ewes with plenty of milk. This tells us our pre-lambing feeding of the ewes has worked.
With lambing just four weeks away, all our ewes have to get their injection of Covexin 10 this week. This will cover them against the clostridial diseases and give some antibodies to the lambs.
With Christmas and New Year festivities all behind us we are back into the usual routine of winter jobs. A quick change in the weather resulted in all ewes being housed over one week in mid-December.
What a difference from last year, with more than 75pc of lambs sold and without a big bill for meal to pay. This time last year we had less than 50pc of lambs sold after feeding expensive meal to most of them before slaughter.
If ever we needed reminding that theory and practice often make strange bedfellows, all we need to do is look out into a tillage field this year. On our farm the stubbles have produced a magnificent crop of weeds and volunteer cereals as a result of exceptional growth post-harvest.
The past few weeks have been spent preparing the ewes for the mating season. They have put on a good amount of weight after the dry weather to bring most of them up to a body condition score of more than 3.5. Very few ewes are at a score 3 or less, just a few older or lame ones.
After another powerful month of grass growth the lambs are growing well, ewes are gaining weight before mating and even some extra baled silage has been made.
All forage for the winter is now safely in storage. The most important thing now is to keep grass growing and stock thriving.
After a very busy few weeks we have saved enough grass for next winter. We made 350 bales of silage, all of excellent quality. We also made about 400 bales of hay.
With a great burst of growth, our farm has gone from having just about enough grass for grazing to extra paddocks being closed up for silage. We put one bag per ac of nitrogen on 20ac that was not needed for grazing.
With grass finally starting to grow, we have fertilised about 30ac for silage. It got three bags of 27:2.5:5 pasture sward and should be cut in late June.
With all the ewes that conceived to AI now lambed, the pressure is definitely off. We lambed 450 ewes in 12 days. Our conception rate was a lot higher at 80pc than last year's 65pc, so we were a lot busier.
With only two weeks to go before lambing begins, we hope to have the vast majority lambed by March 20. Most of these late lambing ewes will be ones that did not hold to AI.
As we reach the end of the grazing season, half of the ewes are on fodder beet tops, which should keep them happy until early December.
We had a sheep inspection on April 30. This was the first time we had one.
WHERE has all the grass gone? It's been a big change in the weather for the last two weeks, with plenty of heavy showers and even hailstones, and the bank of grass we had in March is almost gone.
The first lot of lambing is now over. Conception rate to AI was disappointing since it was a lot lower than last year at about 60pc. Our scan results showed a lot of repeat ewes so we were not over surprised. However, lambing went well with mortality at less than 10pc. We also had plenty of singles to help foster the triplet lambs. We have only two ewes out yet rearing triplets.
With lambing just a week from starting, all ewes to lamb first got their booster shot of Covexin 10 on February 15. This will provide antibodies for the lambs from the ewes' beastings. We also gave the ewes a mineral vitamin dose of Twin Plus.
The ewes were all scanned at the beginning of January. We do not have as high a conception rate as last year since we're back to 68pc from last year's 75pc.
Another year gone, and looking back it was a very good one in terms of sheep prices and production. The price rise was badly needed and really only got us up to where we need to stay, €100 for mid-season lamb.
In the absence of a huge amount of sheep work, our attention turns to getting sheds ready for the winter period. The floors, walls and feed rails are all power hosed and disinfected. We will then repair or replace anything that has been broken.
It's been busy on the farm lately, getting the ewes inseminated. As we have a Central Progeny Test (CPT) flock under the Sheep Ireland programme, the ewes had to be AI'd to given pedigree rams.
We weighed all the ewes this week. The hogget ewe weights showed a difference of 5kg between those that reared lambs and their comrades that were left dry for the summer.
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 grass-seed sown on June 10 is now only starting to grow. What we need now is a rise in temperatures as we have got enough of the rain.
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.
At the end of last month, we spread fertiliser for silage and hay. Two and a half bags of Cut Sward per acre were used. The silage will be made in bales mostly used for cows and calves.
What a difference one year can make. This time last year we were still feeding nuts and fodder-beet to lambed ewes. The only ewes getting any food but grass this spring are the few triplets and hoggets with twins.
Now that the big rush of lambing is over and grass is growing, we can have a look back and see how we got on. The first thing I learned is that no extra protein is required until the last three weeks of pregnancy. Having good hay and silage is also a huge advantage.
All ewes due to lamb first have got their injection of covexin 10. This is to cover all clostridial diseases and to give antibodies to the lambs from the ewes' beastings. At the same time the ewes received a mineral vitamin dose called "Twin Plus".
A new year has started again. All the ewes are now scanned with a conception rate to AI of 75pc, which is slightly higher than last year. We will lamb 453 ewes from 605 in one week. The mature ewes scanned at 1.83/ewe and the hoggets at 1.53pc.
How quickly the weather can change! Early last month it was too wet to leave out cattle and now everywhere is covered in snow.
All ewes have now been AI'd in two lots, on October 18 and October 21. The ewes were housed at lunchtime the previous day so their stomachs and bladders would be empty.
We've plenty of grass so, if we manage it right, we should have enough feed until late December. The field of grass we sowed on June 3 is now being grazed for the fourth time, and I started to close up paddocks on October 2 to allow grass to rest and build up for next spring.
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.
After a long, cold and slow-growing spring, summer has brought good grass growth, with plenty of heat and dry days for silage and haymaking.