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Sheep Newsletter - August 2023

04 August 2023
Type Newsletter

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Included in This Month's Edition:

Grassland Management

At this time of year most grass species are back in a reproductive phase, and will not be heading out, which allows high quality autumn covers to be built up. The response to fertiliser generally declines in late August/early September, so get out early for best results.Aim to apply the last round of chemical fertiliser early in August once conditions are suitable. Ensure you stay within the limits of the farm nutrient management plan. 

Focus on Body Condition Score

As rams can lose up to 15% body condition during mating, it is important to assess them in time and plan to build their body condition score (BCS) up to 3.5-4.0 at turnout. It may be necessary to supplement grass with a concentrate suitable for feeding to rams to achieve this target.The thinner ewes in your flock need to be separated and given access to high quality grass from at least early August if intended for mating in early to mid October. The remaining ewes that are in good body condition can be grazed as a follower group after finishing lambs or the thin ewe group.

Flock Biosecurity for Incoming Sheep

The risk of buying in animals carrying infectious disease or resistant parasites should not be underestimated. A closed flock, where only rams are purchased, significantly reduces this risk but it is important to be aware that sheep taken home unsold from market or those returning from shows can potentially bring back disease to the farm.

BETTER Farm Update - Weaning Early a Good Move

As mentioned in the July update, some of the flocks took the decision to wean lambs off the ewes a couple of weeks earlier than planned in order to reduce overall grass demand on the farm and ensure the best grass was kept for the lambs. This turned out to be a good move for most of the flocks as weather conditions had restricted grass growth rates and it took a couple of weeks after the dry weather conditions for rates to return to normal.

Research Update - Weather Brings Challenges

 Lambs were weaned in mid June at 14 weeks of age (100 days). Lamb performance averaged 252g/head/day for the lambs on the grass-only treatments. Lambs on the grass plus white clover or plantain treatments averaged 255g/day. Lamb performance up to six weeks of age was well behind normal due to the challenging weather  conditions in late March and April (average daily gain of 267g/head/day), and this lost performance was not regained prior to weaning, resulting in weaning weights being 1.5-2kg behind normal. Grass growth in May, June and July to date averaged 91, 50 and 57kg DM/ha/day, respectively, with an average of 65kg nitrogen (N) spread/ha on grazing ground up to mid July.

Health and Safety - Funding for PTO Covers and ATV Helmets

Funding is now available under the new National Farm Safety Measure to cover 60% of the eligible cost of up to two quad bike (ATV) helmets and four power take off (PTO) shaft covers. A total of €1.5m has been allocated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to support farmers in the purchase of this equipment.The grant aid is subject to a maximum eligible cost of €100 per PTO shaft cover and €150 per quad bike helmet. Only ATV/quad helmets and PTO covers that meet the scheme specifications are eligible