Au­tumn ef­forts to im­prove grass­land man­age­ment in­clude fort­nightly sward height mea­sure­ment and sheep move­ment

The Oban Times - - Farming - By Ewen Camp­bell, SRUC’s Kirk­ton and Auchter­tyre re­search farms man­ager

AU­TUMN is now in full swing, with the leaves turn­ing and the vi­brant colours adorn­ing the hill­side above the farm steading.

This has also been the re­cent tem­po­rary home for a huge flock of field­fares that have now stripped many of the rowan trees of their berries.

We’ve had a great spell of weather in Oc­to­ber and the grass is still very lush.

We have been busy mov­ing the sheep around to make sure we use the grass as best we can.

To help us im­prove our grass­land man­age­ment, we have been mea­sur­ing the sward height of our fields ev­ery two weeks us­ing a QMS mea­sur­ing stick.

When the sward height drops be­low a cer­tain level, we move the sheep to an­other field where there is still plenty of grass avail­able.

This has been quite a lot of work but it should be worth­while, es­pe­cially as we want to make sure there is still plenty of grass avail­able come tup­ping time, in a cou­ple of weeks.

Speaking of grass and fod­der, we man­aged to make 400 bales of silage for the cows this year, com­pared to only around 100 last year. Although there is plenty of bulk, the qual­ity is not great, be­cause of the wet weather back in the sum­mer.

The silage is a bit soggy, and the anal­y­sis showed a low dry mat­ter con­tent. The cows will still ben­e­fit from eat­ing it this win­ter, but it won’t be as good as we had hoped.

All of th­ese grass­land is­sues were dis­cussed at our Farm­ers’ Grass­land Group meet­ing ear­lier in the month.

Our usual group of farm­ers came to Kirk­ton and Auchter­tyre to dis­cuss grass­land man­age­ment, silage qual­ity, bracken con­trol and soil nu­tri­ents, as well as our plans for next year.

We had some stim­u­lat­ing dis­cus­sions, and we’ll meet again in March.

On the sheep front, in the past cou­ple of months all the ewes have been brought in for stock draw, which al­lows us to pull off the poorer an­i­mals to sell (those with bad mouths or ud­ders) and to en­sure that those we keep are healthy and fit for breed­ing.

We have also sent this year’s fe­male lambs (hoggs) for ‘win­ter­ing’ to farms with bet­ter grass. They were sent to two dif­fer­ent farms, one near Air­drie and the other near Buckie.

They will come home next April and re­main on the hill, be­fore be- ing mated next au­tumn. We have also sent our first batch of lambs to slaugh­ter in Bridge of Al­lan.

A to­tal of 55 lambs were sent and their con­fir­ma­tion scores were very good, although some were a bit heavy.

As with last month, we also had a flurry of vis­i­tors to the farms. We’ve had a group of 10 Chi­nese aca­demics from Hainan Univer- sity, ac­com­pa­nied by a lec­turer from the Univer­sity of the West of Scot­land.

Their in­ter­ests cov­ered agri­cul­ture, farm/agri­cul­ture diver­si­fi­ca­tion, re­mote and ru­ral en­ter­prise initiatives and aqua­cul­ture.

It was a very stim­u­lat­ing visit and they were im­pressed by our fa­cil­i­ties, es­pe­cially the an­i­mal han­dling set-up.

A week later, more vis­i­tors came, this time from a bit closer to home.

Six re­searchers from Tea­gasc (the Ir­ish Agri­cul­ture and Food De­vel­op­ment Author­ity) based in Gal­way and Cork came to us on a fact-find­ing mis­sion.

They were all sheep spe­cial­ists, work­ing with farm­ers on their net­work pro­gramme. They were very keen to see the par­al­lels be­tween our Scot­tish sit­u­a­tion and the Ir­ish one.

They al­ready have some tech­nol­ogy on their re­search farms, but were very in­ter­ested in our re­search on EID, labour sav­ings and our ge­netic re­sults for the black­face.

Once again, quite a lot to re­port for this month.

Ir­ish sheep spe­cial­ists dur­ing their visit to the SRUC on a fact-find­ing mis­sion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.