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Grass growth and lamb performance on the BETTER sheep farms

Grass growth and lamb performance on the BETTER sheep farms

Frank Campion of the Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Athenry, Co. Galway reports on grass growth and lamb performance on the BETTER sheep farms.

Lambing has concluded on the lowland flocks and post-lambing grazing rotations are in full swing, with ewes and lambs grouped-up into larger groups in order to reduce the number of groups on the farms.

Grass growth rates were good for April, but grazing conditions, particularly on the heavier farms, were challenging, especially early in the month. The second round of fertiliser was applied in April, which for most was 15-20 units of nitrogen per acre in the form of protected urea. Paddocks have also been identified for silage and where possible, these are now closed up and fertilised for silage. Getting good quality silage made this month and indeed throughout the summer will be a key part of managing concentrate costs next winter.

Reviewing lambing performance

This is also a good time to review lambing performance, both of the stock but also the farm in terms of the set up going forward, e.g., do I need more individual pens? Were there enough sheltered paddocks closed off for turn out?

Reviewing this now, while it is fresh in the mind, and making notes will benefit the farm going forward. One key area will be identifying the poorer performing ewes for culling, either at lambing or those that bring in poor lambs at the seven-week weights this month.

Data from previous years on the BETTER farms has shown that even the top-performing flocks will have a proportion of ewes that for one reason or another fail to perform. Culling the worst-performing ewes and not keeping replacements from them will improve overall flock performance over time.

Lambs were treated for nematodirus in April in line with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine forecast using a white drench (benzimidazole; 1-BZ). Some of the flocks may need to dose a second time, where some of the lambs were still quite young at the first dose. Faecal sampling of lambs will begin this month to allow for FECPAK analysis to establish when further anthelmintic treatments are required.

This article first appeared in the Sheep Advisory newsletter for May. For more information on Teagasc’s Sheep Programme, click here.