First-cut silage finished up on Paraic’s farm this week, with 12ac of grass mowed on Saturday, then tedded and baled on Monday 20 June.
This follows 10ac of grass mown last Wednesday and baled on Thursday 16 June, giving a total area of 22ac harvested as first-cut silage.
Within this area, 16ac was specifically closed off in early May for silage. The other 6ac was surplus grass removed from the grazing block.
The dedicated silage area bulked out well and yielded 11.5 bales per acre. The surplus grazing yielded 5.5 bales per acre.
Paraic and his father Seamus considered using the pit this year, but opted for the bales as they provide greater flexibility on the farm.
Continuing with bales proved to be a good decision this year, as broken weather meant silage harvesting conditions were far from ideal.
The staggered approach meant silage was made in dry conditions and got a good wilting period to raise dry matter.
Last year, bales were typically 73% D-Value (78% DMD), which led to a huge saving in concentrate feeding to ewes prior to and after lambing.
While cutting date is slightly later, Paraic is confident that fodder quality will be ok this year.
A lot of the silage has been made from clover swards and this is a big factor in driving feed value in winter fodder.
Clover swards received 2,000 gallons per acre of slurry in early May, followed by 1.5 bags of nitrogen. Any sward with a low clover content got 3,000 gallons per acre of slurry and 2.5 bags of nitrogen.
Silage was closed off two weeks later than planned after a cold, wet spring delayed fertiliser applications and swards were needed for grazing.
Grass growth has excelled during June, and in particular over the past 10 days, with the farm growing 110kg DM/ha/day at peak.
This allowed Paraic to take out the 6ac of surplus grass as the grazing rotation is down to 11 to 12 days to maintain sward quality.
Last year, there was no designated area closed off for second-cut silage. Instead, Paraic and Seamus continued to remove surplus grass from the grazing platform as baled silage.
However, the farm was running tight for silage towards the end of the most recent winter as weather conditions delayed turnout.
Therefore, to take the pressure off feed reserves during the upcoming winter, Paraic is planning to take a second cut, as well as baling up any surplus grass to control sward quality over the summer.
The actual area to be closed off is undecided as yet and will ultimately come down to pressure on the grazing block over the next couple of weeks.
Lambs thriving at grass
Lamb performance has been exceptionally good this year, particularly over the past fortnight. Paraic is weighing lambs every two weeks and capturing the data on his farm software package.
Lambs have been gaining 330g to 340g/day from birth. Over the past couple of weeks, there have been ram lambs drafted for slaughter that were gaining up to 460g/day.
There have been two batches of lambs drafted for slaughter so far. The first group was drafted on 1 June with 17 animals sold.
Carcase weight averaged 21.5kg, with lambs killing out at 49.5% of liveweight from a grass-only diet.
The second group of lambs was drafted on 17 June, with 20 animals averaging 20.5kg carcase weight and kill-out again hitting 49.5%.
These animals were also finished on grass only and lambs made just over the £140 (€172) mark.
Lambs are weighed leaving the farm for slaughter and keeping a close eye on kill-out meant Paraic was able to be much tighter on selecting animals for slaughter in the second batch.
The aim is to take another draft of lambs next week, with a possible fourth draft before weaning.
Paraic is keen to get as many ram lambs sold off-farm before weaning, as weight gains always take a dip once lambs come off the ewes.
As lambs are being drafted for slaughter, cull ewes are also being removed from the flock and sold live through the local mart. Cull ewes are making upwards on £170 (€208) off grass.
Where ewes have had lambs drafted and are being retained for breeding, these animals have been moved to paddocks with low grass covers to dry off.
Once dry, these ewes will be grazed with dry hoggets that will go to the ram this autumn.
Clipping and parasite control up-to-date
Mature ewes and dry hoggets retained for breeding were clipped in early June. There are around 35 ewe lambs with a lamb at foot still to be clipped and all being well, this job will be completed shortly now that silage is out of the way.
Lambs have been treated for external parasites with a pour-on product. A few Suffolk cross lambs were starting to exhibit problems with flies, but were treated in time.
Mature ewes are not normally treated for external parasites. Instead, Paraic finds that clipping on time cuts down on a lot of problems associated with flies or lice.
However, any replacement sheep rearing their first lambs this year will be treated with a pour-on to control such parasites.