Philip Creighton, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Teagasc Athenry, Co Galway.
Rams were turned out to ewes on October 10th. Ewe body condition going to the ram averaged 3.3. Up to early October approximately 70% of the lambs had been drafted. This is 10% behind our long term average. Lambs drafted to date have averaged 45.9kg liveweight producing a 19.7kg carcass with kill out averaging 43 %. There is little difference between stocking rate and grass or grass-clover groups. A lot of the difference in performance observed between groups last year was recorded during July and August and due to conditions this year this has not materialised. Lamb performance and drafting pattern was particularly slow during late August and early September. We observed very high parasite challenges during this period measured through our fortnightly faecal egg counts. There seemed to be a rapid and sustained increase in egg counts once significant levels of moisture had been restored following the dry period of July and early August. Lamb performance and drafting rates have improved in the last month with lambs gaining 180-200g/day from mid-September to mid-October. We did introduce concentrate supplementation at a rate of 300g/hd/day from mid-September due to the slower than normal drafting rate and low DM content of the grass to try and make up some of the ground lost in August. Grass growth rate has averaged 47kg DM/ha/day for September and early October. We currently have 37 days grass ahead of groups on average. Closing of paddocks commenced in mid-October to build grass for next spring. The plan is to have approximately 20% of each farmlet closed on average by late October, 40% by mid-November, 60% by late November and 80% by mid-December with the remainder by late December/Early January. These targets will have to be adjusted upwards for the higher stocking rate groups.