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Updates July 2014

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

Grass growth has been excellent in recent weeks on the BETTER farms. Grass growth rates averaged from 70 kg/DM/ha up to 100 kg/DM/ha during June. With sheep getting access to heavy covers (ie. 10 cm +) a number of the farms split paddocks with temporary fencing to get the ewe flock to graze out pasture more efficiently. In addition To manage grass supplies a number of the farmers had to drop paddocks out of the grazing rotation for silage/haylage. The focus now is to prioritise the best pasture for lambs. Once weaned the ewe flock can be used to graze out paddocks behind lambs.

The BETTER Farm flocks target weaning in late June/early July. This year’s lamb performance has been good with each of the flocks having 1 to 2 drafts at this stage. The first of the mid-season flocks weaned was Tomas O’Leary in Co Kerry and the performance of his lambs is summarised in Table 1. These lambs were managed in a grass based mixed grazing system.

Table 1. Mid-season lamb performance - O'Leary's flock

birth to 14 weeks (g/day)14 week weight (kg)
325 37.9
285 32.8
274 31.4

Another issue facing flocks during June/July is treating Parasitic gastro-enteritis (PGE) in lambs. The flocks in the BETTER farm are submitting samples for Fecpak analysis every 2 weeks to monitor worm burden. The results indicate that there is large variation between flocks and even within management groups on farm (see Table 2). With some groups requiring treatment whereas others require none. Therefore the only true way to determine the need for dosing is conducting a Fecpak test on samples collected from your lambs.

Table 2. Results of Fecpak analysis on BETTER Farm flocks in June

 Nematodirus (epg)Strongyles (epg)
  Average Range (min to max) Average Range (min to max)
Count 243 0 to 1080 331 15 to 1305