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Update December-January 17/18

Philip Creighton, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Teagasc Athenry, Co Galway.

Drafting of lambs is almost complete with approximately 97% of lambs finished from each of the groups. As mentioned in our last update due to weather conditions we housed all remaining lambs in mid-October. By the end of October we had 70% of lambs drafted from the grass only groups and 81% from the grass plus white clover groups. There was 7% more lambs drafted from the lower stocking rate (11 ewes/ha) at 79% compared to 72% at the 13 ewe/ha stocking rate. Preliminary analysis shows that lambs from the grass-clover groups reached slaughter 8 days earlier than the grass only lambs. Average live weight at slaughter for lambs killed in 2017 was 45.7kg with a carcass weight of 19.7kg. This represents an average kill out percentage of 43%, 1% lower than our long term average. The grass clover fed lambs consistently had a 1% higher kill out compared to the grass only fed lambs. Ewe body condition measured in early December ranged from 3.3 (13 ewe/ha Stocking rate) to 3.4 (11 ewe/ha stocking rate) which is an improvement of around 0.25 since the start of mating. The slight improvement in ground conditions in late November/early December, coupled with higher covers of grass due to higher than normal grass growth rates in late October/early November has meant that we have been able to extend the grazing season well into December for all ewes. The 13 ewe/ha stocking rate groups will be housed Christmas week with the 11 ewe/ha groups probably grazing into the New Year weather permitting. We currently have 80-90% of all farmlets closed for the winter which is on target for Mid-December. In terms of sward DM production the grass clover swards grew 13500kgDM/ha relative to the grass only sward at 12800kgDM/ha. Interestingly the grass-clover low N (90kg N/ha/yr) treatments produced the same level of DM/ha as the grass-clover high N (145kg N/ha/yr) treatments. Our challenge is to maintain this production and the persistency of clover in our swards which will be a key focus of our work over the coming years.