Grass supplies: This week’s sheep feature discusses the importance of taking stock of the lamb drafting progress and putting a plan in place to ensure the remaining lambs on-farm are marketed in a timely fashion.

As mentioned in the feature, grass supplies vary greatly across farms and it is important that appropriate steps are taken to ensure supplies are brought back on track as quickly as possible.

Most highly stocked farmers are currently applying fertiliser at a rate of 20 to 30 units of nitrogen per acre, while lowly stocked farmers who are targeting building supplies are applying 10 to 15 units.

It is important to point out that the response or payback on your investment from applying fertiliser further on in the year typically reduces the later fertiliser is applied.

At this stage, there should also be a focus on replenishing nutrients lost to harvesting a grass crop, whether this be a main crop or surplus grass. It is also a good time to address soil fertility issues through a combination of applying compound, or phosphorus and potassium, fertiliser. Targeting slurry or farmyard manure to fields where crops have been harvested or those lower in P or K.

Where there is seen to be significant challenges in building grass supplies, then there will be no option but to take additional measures, such as reducing grass demand and giving covers a chance to build. Some farmers who have tightened up ewes and are supplementing with forage will continue to do so for another few days, taking heed not to restrict ewes ahead of breeding, while others are moving cull ewes earlier than normal.

Take care if selling cull ewes and where replacements are being purchased not to fall foul of requirements in the Sheep Welfare Scheme, which inhibits a flock from falling below their reference number.

Grass supplies should recover quickly if next week’s upturn in temperatures materialises, so it may be a case for some of not panicking, but having a plan B in place if a significant increase in grass growth does not materialise.

On some lowly stocked farms, the opposite situation is present, with surplus grass supplies and issues with grass quality. Where there is a high level of lower-quality material at the base of the sward, then it is important that lambs are moved to fresh grass before being forced to graze this lower-quality material.

Blowfly strike: There has been an increase in reports of blowfly strike in ewe hoggets and ewes in the last week, which is not surprising given the muggy weather. It is advisable to keep a good check on these animals where they have not already received preventative treatment and to put a plan in place to address this accordingly. At this stage of the year, plunge dipping is a better option, with a cover period of five to eight weeks typically seeing out the rest of the blowfly risk season.

Farm-to-farm movements: In the case of permanent farm-to-farm sheep movements, it is the purchaser of sheep who is required to submit the pink copy of the dispatch document to their local Regional Department of Agriculture office. Sheep traded in farm-to-farm movements must be double tagged, irrespective of if the planned next move is to a factory/abattoir. The movement must be recorded within seven days.