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Brian Keane - May 2024

*Brian Keane from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford on his farm. Picture: Patrick Browne

Lambs were weighed recently and performance is back on other years. It was to be expected, and while the weights might make hard reading they will be really useful in terms of making a plan for how to get the lambs finished in the coming months.

Birth weights are on target for the singles, twins and triplets. Performance of the twin lambs is 228g/day while the singles are 287g/day. This is behind target for both so grassland management, lameness control and parasite control become all the more important to try and get the best possible performance out of them up to weaning.

There are a couple of reasons for the poor performance to date. We had flock health issues in 2023, and despite our best efforts to sort the problems, ewes weren’t in ideal condition coming into the winter. 

Difficult weather at lambing time didn’t help. Lambing this year has been complicated by adverse weather, which has meant the lambs have had to be kept indoors for longer.

There were also increased issues around lambing and for ewes and lambs once they were turned out to grass. 

Then, once we finally did get out, poor grazing conditions contributed to lower-than-ideal grass intakes and consequently affected lamb growth.

It’s going to be really important that I stay on top of management over the next few months—making sure grass quality and quantity are right, any lameness issues are addressed, and having a plan for dealing with parasites. From now on, we will be using faecal egg counts on a regular basis to identify whether or not we need to dose for internal parasites.

We will consider introducing meals earlier this year. At weaning, when we have another weigh-in, we will review the weights and consider some targeted supplementation.

Perhaps the heavier lambs will be separated and fed to get them off to the factory earlier, which has worked previously for us.

Grass supplies are just on target at the moment. We are currently 14 days ahead, with a target for mid-May of 12-15 days ahead. Some ground is closed for silage. 

I am conscious that silage will be late this year and we need to build up stocks again ahead of next winter. I’ll be doing grass covers regularly now and will keep an eye on things as there may also be the opportunity to drop out heavy paddocks to make extra bales.

We will need to keep a careful eye on grass supplies in the coming weeks to maintain quality but also ensure supplies remain ok. We don’t want grass to get out of control, and then we have an issue with going into higher covers and poorer quality. 

Wet weather meant a late first round of fertiliser application, which may slow re-growths in the coming weeks, but so far, we are ok.

*This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner as part of a Signpost Update.