Put a graz­ing plan in place now and reap re­wards in spring

Irish Independent - Farming - - FARM OUR - JOHN LARGE

NOW that Oc­to­ber has ar­rived, it is time to start putting a graz­ing plan in place. Grass­land man­age­ment re­ally starts in Oc­to­ber — we need to en­sure we have enough grass next spring.

Proper grass­land man­age­ment in the back end of the year can re­duce the de­pen­dence on con­cen­trates and silage next spring.

What we farm­ers do over the next few weeks has a huge im­pact on next spring. So sit down and do up a plan.

Plans can change, but if you have a plan in place, you have an idea of where you are go­ing to graze next and what pad­docks are go­ing to be closed up first.

Clos­ing date will have a big ef­fect on the amount of grass avail­able on sheep farms next spring.

Grass re­quires a 120-day pe­riod to re­ju­ve­nate and for cov­ers to build up over the win­ter months.

I will try to have 20pc of the farm closed by late Oc­to­ber, 40pc by midNovem­ber, 60pc by late Novem­ber and 80pc by midDe­cem­ber, when most of the ewes will be housed.

The most im­por­tant thing is to eat out pad­docks well be­fore you close them, as grass left will die off over the win­ter and have slower growth next spring.

An­other thing is that once a field is closed, do not grass again un­til next March. Grass is worth twice as much in spring for ewe-rear­ing lambs than keep­ing dry ewes out for an ex­tra few weeks in late De­cem­ber.

We are spong­ing the first ewes on Septem­ber 30 in prepa­ra­tion for AI on Oc­to­ber 14. The sec­ond lot will fol­low three days later.

We will weigh all the ewes and con­di­tion score them at spong­ing. Any tags that are dam­aged or lost will be re­tagged.

The rams used will be from pedi­gree breed­ers and have a high star rat­ing. We will use pos­si­bly 15 rams over the two days from five dif­fer­ent breeds.

The rams ar­rive on the farm the morn­ing of AI with se­men col­lected and used fresh. This gives a bet­ter con­cep­tion rate, of hope­fully 75pc.

My most im­por­tant job is to make sure ewes are empty and al­lowed no wa­ter for 12 hours be­fore AI. This makes the AI tech­ni­cian’s job much eas­ier and gives me a higher con­cep­tion rate, with more lambs born in the first two weeks.

As a CPT f lock, our job is to record in­for­ma­tion on the prog­eny of the rams we use — this is sent to Sheep Ire­land and then used to as­sess the mer­its of each ram.

Com­par­isons be­tween rams can be as­sessed be­cause they all have lambs born at the same time and are treated the same for their life­time.

The weather at the mo­ment is not help­ful on any farm. We gave two weeks try­ing to get straw bailed, but now at least it is in the shed — not as much or of as good a qual­ity as other years but hope­fully we have enough to get through the win­ter.

We will use dry peat un­der the calves to save on some straw. Grass is not as plen­ti­ful as this time last year and a lot harder to man­age. We will put most of the lambs that are left on fod­der rape when we get a few fine days to­gether. This will leave what grass we have for the ewes af­ter mat­ing.

My cows and calves could be in early too as ground con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rate on the out farm.

We have plenty of silage for them but the cows will get some meal when housed at least un­til they are gone back in calf.

No two years are the same but maybe a change in weather would give us all some re­lief.

John Large farms at Gort­na­hoe, Thurles, Co Tip­per­ary

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