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Update June - July 2017

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

Final results from our Stocking rate and prolificacy trial conducted over the last number of years were presented at our recent openday. Full details can be found in the Sheep Open Day Athenry booklet available online. The key take home messages from this study is that great potential exists to increase lamb output and income from grass based systems of lamb production. The key areas that we need to focus on are growing and utilising enough grass to support increased output.

We have commenced a new trial on the research demonstration farm this year. The new trial will evaluate incorporating white clover into sheep grazed swards at two fertiliser nitrogen and stocking rate levels on the productivity of pasture based lamb production systems. Building on our previous study this trial will investigate two contrasting stocking rate systems (11 and 13 ewes/ha) grazing three different pasture treatments:

  1. a grass only sward receiving 145kg N/ha/yr
  2. a grass plus white clover sward receiving 145kg N/ha/yr
  3. a grass plus white clover sward receiving 90 kg N/ha/yr.

The overall objective of this study is to examine the potential of grass-white clover swards to support increased output levels within sheep production systems. Specific objectives of this project are to assess the influence of incorporating white clover into sheep grazed swards on ewe and lamb performance, pasture production, utilization and quality and their ability to support higher stocking rates while also reducing the level of chemical nitrogen applied.

Lamb performance to 12 weeks has averaged 265g/day at the 11 ewe/ha stocking rate and 257g/day at the 13 ewe/ha treatments. Lambs on the grass only treatments averaged 247g/day while lambs grazing grass clover swards averaged 268g/day. Further updates on this study will follow in the coming months and years.

View Sheep Open Day video - Philip Creighton