Lambing is at an advanced stage on three of the lowland farms having started back in February.
Progress has been relatively good inside the lambing sheds, with few problems being reported.
However, wet weather over the second half of March has hindered turnout. This week, Kieran Mailey gives an update on what is happening on the early lambing farms.
Lambing started back in early February on Paraic’s farm. Mature ewes are lambed in two batches with 150 breeding females scanning at 178% across both groups.
At the outset of this week, there were eight ewes still to lamb. A final count on stock numbers will be completed at the end of lambing.
The first lambing group consisted of 85 ewes and all animals have now lambed. Most of these animals remained housed for the best part of two weeks after lambing, until the weather allowed ewes to go out to grass.
Normally, Paraic does not feed concentrates to ewes at grass, but the earliest lambing group did get some supplementary feed at grass to stretch covers, but this stopped back in mid-March. Lambs are getting a small amount of creep feed to drive performance.
The second group started lambing in early March and these animals are also outside on a grass-only diet at the moment.
There are 28 ewe lamb replacements on farm and the first three animals in this group lambed this week, with Paraic expecting a burst of lambing activity over the next week.
Ewe lambs ran with the ram for three weeks, so lambing should reach its conclusion around the second week of April.
The first rotation has finished and ewes are now starting their second loop of the grazing block. Fertiliser has been applied last week to drive regrowth.
Paddocks with good P and K levels received 1.5 bags/acre of 27-5-5 plus sulphur, while paddocks with lower soil fertility were dressed with 20-10-10. Slurry was spread on grassland back in February.
Going into this spring, Mark had 260 ewes and around 40 replacements to lamb down with a scanning percentage of 189%. Ewes are lambed in two groups to suit housing space and labour.
The first group of ewes consisted of 92 animals and started lambing back in early February. All ewes in the group have now lambed with no major issues to report. The first group of ewes is out on grass and no meal is being fed to these animals.
The second batch of ewes started lambing on 17 March with the first of the home-bred flock replacements starting to lamb last week. Lambing has been progressing steadily with approximately eight ewes lambing daily.
At the outset of the week, 170 ewes have lambed with 130 still to go. Triplets are being fostered to single bearing ewes when possible or else sold live at £30 (€35).
The ewes in the second group were being slipped out to grass after three to four days inside. However, last Wednesday (24 March), Mark stopped turning sheep out on the back of a poor weather forecast over the weekend.
Ewes and lambs were penned in loose housing in the interim. With more settled weather forecast this week, turn out has resumed.
With ewes going to winter grazing, the land around the home yard has been closed since the start of October.
Grass covers are good and ewes are making their way around paddocks with the first rotation yet to be completed.
Grazing ground received slurry in February, but has yet to get bagged fertiliser. Weather depending, CAN will be applied to grazing ground this weekend.
At Tynan Abbey farm, Kate and Peter also lamb their ewes in two batches as this is much easier to manage in terms of housing and workload. While lambing is progressing well, there was an issue with ewes in excessive condition prolapsing early this winter and they lost nine animals.
The early lambing group had 160 Suffolk-bred ewes and hoggets. These animals started lambing back in mid-February.
All ewes in this group have now lambed with the last lambs born in mid-March. Across the 160 ewes, there are 1.7 lambs/ewe out at grass.
Concentrates were being fed to ewes post-lambing at grass, but this stopped last week as growth rates are increasing and now meeting grazing demand.
Fertiliser was applied three weeks ago with grassland being dressed with urea. The second round of nitrogen is ready to go out on the grazing block just as soon as the ground dries out.
Breeding was planned out to provide a one-week break between the first and second lambing groups.
The second group of ewes is the main flock with 380 breeding females, and lambing is getting under way this week.
Last year, most of these ewes were lambed outside in dry conditions. But after a wet March, these ewes are currently housed.
Lambing percentage in this group ranged from 193% for Suffolk Cheviot cross ewes to 201% in Romney ewes, so triplets are being cross fostered where possible or else sold rather than artificial rearing. In the first batch of ewes, 19 triplets were sold.
Weather depending, the plan is slip ewes and lambs out to grass around two days post-lambing to take the pressure off housing facilities and workload.