It’s vital to keep on top of lameness in this weather
Grass growth rate at UCD Lyons farm over the past week has ranged from 60kg to 86kg of DM per ha per day. This variation in growth rate relates to differences in fertiliser application rates and location on the farm.
Any rainfall we missed out on in April and May, we have made up for in June and July. Rainfall for June was 40pc above average and for July it was 100pc above average, up to July 29.
However, rainfall patterns have allowed for surplus paddocks to be removed for silage and for 4ha of multi-species swards to be established on the sheep-grazing platform at Lyons.
Lambs are being drafted on a fortnightly basis, and they are foot-bathed and cobalt-drenched on each pass through the handling unit. With the wet conditions it is important to keep on top of any lameness issues.
Twenty lambs were slaughtered on July 23, returning an average carcass weight of 21.49kg and a gross price of €115.92. There is another load of lambs for slaughter this week.
Lambs received a drench last week for stomach worms based on the results of faecal egg counting.
We have 120 lambs above 39kg grazing Redstart on the front of the hill. This crop was established in April and began grazing in early June. It is grazed in a rotational manner, allowing for recovery of the crop after each grazing.
There are an additional 30 light lambs grazing another Redstart block which was established as part of a research trial, but these plans had to be changed as a result of Covid-19.
Ewes for culling have now been selected: these include those that had issues at lambing time, such as prolapse or severe mis-mothering issues; those that suffered mastitis in lactation; and those that have other issues with their udder.
These latter issues were picked up when ewes were examined four weeks after weaning. Research from Anne Ridler in Massey University in New Zealand shows that by delaying udder examination until four weeks after weaning, the potential to pick up udder problems is increased two-fold.
We have bought most of our replacement females, and they are undergoing their quarantine period, with the remaining female replacements due to be purchased in the coming weeks.
With the purchase of replacement females, all our breeding stock are enrolled on a toxo and endo vaccination programme. They receive quarantine drenches to help reduce the risk of introducing anthelmintic resistant parasites. In addition, foot conditions are monitored for a minimum of six weeks before joining the main flock. While this may sound excessive to some, the risk and workloads involved if we do introduce any of the problems listed is much greater than the time and effort required for quarantine.
The ram team will not be added to this year following an intensive period of purchasing over the last three years.
The focus now is on preparing the ewes for breeding, which is approximately 10 weeks away. Our target is to have the ewe flock at an average body condition score of 3.5 at mating, with the minimum number of ewes below a body condition score of 3 at mating.
Lifting the ewes in poor body condition up to the average of the flock will have big impacts on flock performance.
Coming up to mating, the two main benefits witnessed are an increase in litter size and a reduction in the lambing spread. It will take between eight and 10 weeks of good grazing to allow ewes to gain one full body condition score, which equates to approximately 12kg of liveweight for a standard lowland ewe in Ireland. So now is the time to be assessing flock body condition and implementing plans to improve it where ewes are at a score of 2.5 or lower.
Simply looking at the animals will not suffice.