For years, I’ve been a big advocate of the benefits of early spring grass. One of the reasons I stopped lambing ewes almost 20 years ago was because their presence throughout the winter was stopping me from having such a thing.
I went from first of all closing up half the farm from the sheep until eventually having no sheep at all.
Over time, with the conscious improvement of P and K indices and pH levels, I soon had heaps of spring grass.
Some years, if the weather allowed, I would manage to get yearling heifers out to grass in late February, sometimes I’d get them out in mid-March and some years, if the weather decided not to allow, it could be mid-April or May before I’d get any significant levels of stock to grass.
Another issue is the east wind that would sometimes raise its ugly head and turn brown whatever grass was there.
Because of how far north I am and the type of land I’m on, early spring grazing was never plain sailing.
I’ve started grazing store lambs over the winter again and, year on year, the numbers slowly started to increase
If I got one good year in three, I was doing well, but when it worked it was lovely to get stock out early and the performance that could be obtained was great.
However, over the past three years I’ve started grazing store lambs over the winter again and, year on year, the numbers slowly started to increase.
I don’t house them and I don’t feed overly heavy with meal, so a lot of the gain is coming from grass.
This past winter I’ve had the highest number of lambs to date and while some of the land hasn’t had lambs on it since Christmas, there is still really no grass on it.
This ground all received slurry two weeks ago and has greened up nicely and the good thing about land that has been grazed with sheep over the winter is that when the grass does eventually come, you have a lovely thick sward that stands a bit of grazing.
Also, for cutting silage, all the yellow dead material has been removed and it’s easier to make good, quality silage. If it was still raining, which of course it could be in a week's time, I wouldn’t be having this conversation with myself.
But seeing as the weather has been lovely for a few days and ground is drying nicely, it would be lovely to be turning a few cattle out to grass as I often would have done in the past.
But seeing as I only have one field of grass saved beside the yard to allow my calves run in and out to, turning out anything else at the minute isn’t an option.
So what I’m asking myself is, which makes the most sense? Having plenty of spring grass that some years I get to graze and some years I don’t or grazing lambs over the winter in the hope of turning a few pound from them.
I suppose the answer will differ from year to year, depending on the price of lambs and what kind of spring we get.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to do both!