BETTER Lowland Sheep Farm Walk with Brian Keane Wexford
Join us on Wednesday, 24th August at 7pm on the farm of Brian Keane, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, Y21 X0Y2 for a lowland sheep farm walk. Brian is a 2021 participant in the BETTER Farm Sheep Programme and the Teagasc Signpost Programme.
Topics for discussion
- Flock performance
- Lamb performance
- Flock health
About Brian Keane's Farm
Brian Keane farms in partnership with his father John on approx 85 adjusted hectares of land just outside the town of Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. The farm is split pretty much 50:50 in terms of tillage and grassland with approx. 42 ha of winter and spring tillage crops established each year. The remainder of the farm currently supports approx. 25 suckler cows with all progeny sold as yearlings and 200 ewes along with their replacements.
Brian & John just joined the Teagasc BETTER farm programme in 2021 so are at an early stage of development within the programme however the aim of increasing the performance and profitability of both their sheep and cattle enterprises is very much to the fore in terms of what they would like to achieve. Cattle numbers and tillage areas are likely to remain the same however it is planned within the programme to increase ewe numbers to 300 along with 50-60 replacements over the next 5 years in line with the programme plan.
Tillage on the farm
The tillage land is all predominately very productive free draining soil. Some of the grassland would be slightly heavier running alongside the Boro river but in general in quite good. Cover crops are established on the majority of the tillage area each year to help carry the ewes and replacements over the winter period. This is a huge help to rest and close grassland early and allows for decent grass covers in the spring when turning out ewes and lambs etc.
BETTER Sheep Farm Programme
One of the major focuses of the BETTER Sheep Farm Programme is to have a defined breeding programme. The Keane farm is currently achieving a litter size of approximately 1.7 lambs per mature ewe with lambs weaned per ewe mated of around 1.45 lambs per ewe. The ewe lambs generally perform somewhat lower, scanning around 1.2-1.3 and weaning around 1.0.
The aim is to produce around 450-480 lambs available for sale each year once the mature ewe flock increases to the magic 300 figure and to select replacements from the 300 ewes put the ram annually. Achieving this level of output it is a combination of the correct female genetics (in this case a Belclare x Suffolk or Texel ewe), coupled with suitable high performance terminal genetics (rams selected for lamb survival and days to slaughter) and having ewes in good body condition at mating time.
2022 Fertiliser & Slurry
In 2022, Fertiliser was applied just twice to each grazing field as grass growth relevant to current modest stocking rates was excellent and resulted in surplus bales being removed particularly in May/Early June. 18-6-12 and protected urea were the fertilisers of choice in 2022. All cattle slurry is spread with a trailing shoe (contractor), hence reducing emissions, retaining more nitrogen and giving greater flexibility in grazing.
Sheep flock aims for 2022
The primary aim for 2022 is to work on getting ewes into optimum body condition score (BCS) at mating and start to increase the level of prolific genetics in the flock to help increase the flocks scanning & weaning rates. Sheep housing and handling facilities also need attention but will all be addressed as Brian makes his way through the programme in a planned manner
August 2022 Farm Update
Brian commenced grass measuring in 2022 for the first time and finds it very useful in identifying non-productive paddocks/fields and also indicating how many day grazing he has ahead for the various groups of stock.
Grass growth has been severely hampered by drought conditions in recent weeks which has delayed the application of chemical fertiliser to help combat this. The plan in to put out 1.5 bags of 18-6-12 on productive and more reactive swards once weather conditions allow. Days grazing ahead are still at 18 however this is expected to fall considerably this week.
A forward group of 50 lambs weighing 40kgs + have also been put together to start getting concentrate supplementation. This will speed up sale dates for these lambs and reduce grass demand accordingly.
Urea went out on grazing ground in start of March. Slurry has gone out on grazing ground at a rate of 2000 gallons / acre after grazing. There’s not enough slurry to cover all grazing ground and 1 bag of 18-6-12 per acre will be spread on remaining grazing ground.
The cows and calves started to get out to grass out on St. Patricks Day. As the majority of the progeny are sold as yearlings they are sold from the shed typically and do not return to grass for a second grazing season so it’s just the cows and their new born calves being turned out.
Brian is walking the farm weekly and measuring grass covers. At the moment growth is poor due to the drought at 22 kg DM / ha however demand is also low at 24 kg DM / kg, which still is leaving 18 days ahead.
Brian has a plan to incorporate clover. In 2022, he reseeded 2 paddocks and plans to oversow 2 others in 2023. The reseeded paddock is looking good. He will cut back chemical N on the reseeded paddock that has 20%+ clover. It will generally get 2,000 gals of slurry and for the summer gets 10-12 units of protected urea i.e. ½ rate at each application to allow the clover is to succeed
Find out more about the BETTER Farm Sheep Programme.
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