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Updates August 2014

Ciaran Lynch, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Athenry, Co Galway

Grass growth rates were variable on the BETTER farms during late June into July. Average grass growth varied from with the average growth rates varying from 35 to 75 kg/dm/ha per day. Unsurprisingly the dry conditions have resulted in a moisture deficit affecting grass growth rates on a number of the farms, particularly on those with more free draining soil.

Managing grass during the season has a major impact on lamb performance and ultimately the drafting pattern. In Table 1 provides a summary of the lamb growth rates for the mid-season. Clearly there is hue variability among the flocks with significant scope for some to improve performance and reduce costs.

Table 1. Lamb growth rate (g/day) from birth to weaning rates on mid-season flocks

Singles 294 324 268 331 256 325 397 325
Twins 246 275 241 314 220 257 320 285
Triplets 243 283 233 311 231 267 317 274
System Grass based Grass based Grass based Grass based Grass based Grass based Grass + Concentrate Grass based

The focus switches to breeding for the BETTER farms in August. The 3 flocks that operate early lamb systems will be sponging ewes and joining them in August. For the mid-season flocks the focus is on selecting replacements and assessing the condition of the ewe flock. Thinner ewes in these flocks will be drafted out and managed with replacement ewe lambs and given access to better grazing to allow them to improve condition in time prior to joining.

The hill flocks will complete weaning in late July. Following weaning potential ewe lamb replacements and breeding ram lambs will be selected. Once these are removed the potential selling options for the remainder of the flock will be assessed.