Lime and nutrient interactions: There is some discussions regarding fertiliser increasing in price in 2021.
While the higher costs will have to be borne by the system, cutting back significantly on volumes applied to lower costs is a false economy and can lead to greater issues down the line if soil P and K levels reduce or if grass growth is significantly curtailed.
An area which should receive close attention is ensuring optimum efficiency of applied nutrients.
This is best achieved by ensuring soil pH is at the optimum level (pH 6.5 to 7.0 for mineral soils and 5.5 to 5.8 for peat soils). Where the soil pH is below 6.0 for mineral soils it will reduce the availability of soil N, P and K and also greatly reduce the response to applied nutrients.
Teagasc research shows that correcting the soil pH from 5.5 to 6.3 for grassland soils can increase the volume of grass grown by 1t DM/ha. While the application of 5t ground limestone/ha (2t/acre) produced similar grassland yields compared to the application of 40kg P/ha fertiliser, showing the benefit lime has in increasing the availability of soil nutrients. The addition of lime and P fertiliser achieved the greatest response, increasing grassland productivity by 1.5t DM/ha.
The research highlights that an investment in lime of €25/ha to maintain soil at the optimum pH will return €105/ha in value or a four to one payback on your investment. The starting point should be to identify the soil pH status through soil sampling and then developing a liming programme. A good programme on soils which naturally reduce in pH is to apply lime to 20% of the farm each year.
An application rate of 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) should never be exceeded in a single application. Where a soil test recommends a higher application, apply 50% now and the remainder in two years’ time. A similar approach is advisable for significant volumes recommended on highly acidic peat soils.
Lime can be applied at any stage of the year but there are some interactions that should be borne in mind. Lime should not be applied to ground where silage will be cut in the following six months. Where lime has been applied, then urea or slurry should not be applied for at least three months to prevent N loss. Where urea or lime has been applied first, then lime can be applied after seven days.
Yearling hoggets: Lactating yearling hoggets with twin lambs should be treated similar to ewes with triplet lambs. Only well-grown hoggets in good body condition and with a good milk yield should be asked to rear two lambs. Concentrate supplementation should continue at a rate of at least 0.5kg per head daily for the first five weeks of lactation while lambs should ideally be offered creep feed to weaning stage.
Nematodirus risk: Teagasc’s monthly webinar, Let’s Talk Sheep, which takes place on Thursday evening, 8 April, at 8pm will also discuss nematodirus and another damaging disease, coccidiosis, which can often be mistaken for nematodirus. Discussions will centre on disease symptoms, choice of product and control measures which can be taken to reduce the risk of infection. Register at https://www.teagasc.ie/letstalksheep/ to watch the webinar.