Tullamore Farm drafted the first of its 2024 lamb crop on Thursday 20 June, with a batch of 16 lambs slaughtered in Irish Country Meats, Camolin, through the Offaly Quality Lamb Producer Group.

The 16 lambs recorded an average carcase payment weight of 21.17kg and, at an average price of €8.60/kg, returned an average sale value of €182.59.

The March-born lambs killed positively, achieving an average kill-out of 48.1%.

However, there was significant variation between kill-out, resulting in the main from breed, gender and ewe parity influences.

There was a 50:50 split between lambs reared as singles and twins. Lambs reared as singles killed marginally better than lambs reared as twins.

This is expected, with single-born lambs generally growing significantly faster, but differences between lambs here was small.

Farm manager Shaun Diver explains that the lower than expected difference in liveweight gain between single- and- twin-reared lambs was also influenced by single-reared lambs being faced in a more challenging grazing environment, with twin-suckling ewes and their lambs given priority access to the best-quality grass in early lactation.

Breed differences

While numbers slaughtered are small, there was some clear differences evident.

Male lambs born to Mule ewes and exhibiting more crossbred genetics recorded a lower kill-out, with such lambs killing in the region of 44% to 46%.

Shaun explains that there was another cohort of similar-weight lambs weighing from 42kg to 45kg, but these were held back until the next draft.

All lambs recorded a fat score of 3 and hence fat cover was not a big factor influencing kill-out.

As expected, U grading younger lambs and those exhibiting more continental genetics achieved a kill-out of 48% to 50% on average, with a 42kg ewe lamb from a continental-cross ewe reflecting this statement and killing at 50%.

Lamb performance

Lamb performance appears to be holding relatively well, despite grass growth rates running significantly lower for the time of year and grass quality hard to maintain.

Mixed grazing is helping in this regard, with two batches of twin-suckling ewes being run with suckler cows and their calves.

Ewes and lambs are being afforded an opportunity to graze ahead or with cows and calves and this is working well, with cows cleaning out swards without hampering performance.

Once ewes and lambs are weaned, then lambs and cows and calves will graze ahead of ewes, where applicable, with ewes used to graze out swards with a butt of lower-quality material at the base of the sward.

With grass growth rates running very tight at present, the attention is now turning to weaning in early July, if not sooner, to reduce demand.

Grass growth

This week’s growth rate increased somewhat on previous weeks at 56kg DM/ha, but is still running significantly below the norm for the time of year.

Demand is running at 33kg DM/ha at present, but this figure fails to take into account the low average farm cover of 443kg DM/ha.

Shaun comments that he is being forced to graze ground targeted for hay or possibly having to introduce silage to cows on a short-term basis to slow up the rotation.

An analysis of grass growth rates through the month of May by Shaun shows the average rate running 30kg DM/ha lower.

This translates to over 50,000t DM across the farm or, if viewed on a round bale basis, it is the equivalent of missing out on upwards 200 round bales of silage which could have been saved from the farm as surplus grass.

Open day

The 2024 Suckler and Sheep Open Day on Tullamore Farm on Tuesday 23 July from 10.30am to 5pm is approaching fast.

Featuring technical stands, workshops, demos and a host of trade stands, it is a day not to be missed for suckler and sheep farmers.

See updates in the Irish Farmers Journal every Thursday or visit here. Supported by Zurich Farm Insurance.