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Sheep Newsletter - January 2024

18 January 2024
Type Newsletter

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In this month's edition:

  • Grassland management
    In January take steps to protect grass covers that have accumulated since closing up in October, November and December. Don’t be tempted to graze covers in January or allow sheep to run over the farm.
  • Lime
    If soil conditions allow and you have areas of the farm that need lime, now is a good time to spread it. Lime will pay for itself in terms of maximising fertiliser use efficiency and freeing up nutrients in the soil.
  • Ewe body condition
    Despite relatively good grass growth last year, ewe body condition score (BCS) is back in many flocks compared to 2022. Maintaining ewe BCS mid pregnancy is essential for ewes that are in sub-optimal BCS at mating time.
  • Organic farms
    On organic sheep farms where concentrate inputs are reduced due to higher costs, extra vigilance is required to identify and preferentially feed thin ewes in mid pregnancy.
  • Liver fluke
    There is a lot of liver fluke around. Treating ewes now when they are still actively picking fluke up should only be carried out using an anthelmintic that is effective against immature fluke.
  • Sheep Census
    The annual Sheep Census took place on December 31. Every flock owner must have counted the number of sheep on their holding on that day and must notify the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) shortly. There are three methods for making your return.
  • BETTER Farm Update - Drafting and scanning
    Frank Campion of Teagasc AGRIC reports on lamb drafting and pregnancy scanning on the BETTER Sheep farms.
    • On the Co. Carlow flock store lambs were purchased in September for grazing forage brassica crops. These lambs were housed for 48 hours at first and went through a bio-security protocol. The crops yielded 4.5t DM/ha on average. 
    • Lowland scanning -  Ewes are housed across the lowland flocks. Pregnancy scanning and assessments of ewe BCS are ongoing. These will inform plans for winter feeding programmes along with results from forage quality and assessments.
    • The hill flocks - Rams were removed from all hill flocks in December. Ewes returned to the hill where possible. Ewes will be gathered again from late January for scanning. Some ewes were held back from the hill due to poor BCS or health issues.