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Evaluating forages for finishing hill store lambs


Frank Campion gives an update on a Research Project in Teagasc Athenry which looks at finishing hill bred, store lambs on a selection of forages. Frank outlines five different treatments which are in place; two permanent pasture swards and three brassica - kale, forage rape & hybrid brassica.

Two of the treatments are permanent pasture swards (predominately Perennial Ryegrass) and reseeded grass swards. The lambs on these have been grazing on these two treatments for the last 6 weeks. The three brassica treatments are kale, forage rape and hybrid brassica and they are being grazed for the last 4 weeks.

The yields of the brassica crops are approximately 4 tonnes DM/Ha for the kale; approx. 6 tonnes DM/Ha for the forage rape and the same for the hybrid brassica. These are the yields of the crops grazed to date, regular measurements of yields are taken and allocating the lambs breaks of the crops for every two days. So far utilisation has been quite good as weather conditions have been favourable, however in recent days, utilisation has begun to drop off from around 70% initially and is now falling as conditions disimprove. Daily breaks may need to be implemented in order to ensure good utilisation of the crops and allow the lambs to continue to perform. 

Four electric polywires are used to divide the crop, setting up at least one if not two breaks ahead of the lambs to ensure that if they break out through one set of the wires they won't be able to run through the entire crop as it could reduce the utilisation of the crop but also could pose potential issues for the lambs gorging on the crops by being able to graze nothing but leaf and not the stem. The lambs are also offered ad-lib straw while they're on the crop as it is vital for rumen function and it will be continued throughout the trial.