Temporary grazing agreements: Last week’s management notes detailed what is required from a recording and administrative perspective where sheep are availing of temporary grazing agreements.

It stimulated some discussions and a number of calls around the cost of temporary grazing this year.

There are not a great number of deals completed as yet to give definitive rates.

Where prices are available, there is quite a bit of variation depending on the length of the agreement, the quality of grass on offer and who is responsible for aspects such as fencing.

Some deals reported on a per-head basis range from 5c per day for lambs at present rising to 8c to 10c per day for longer-term deals where lambs will be sent to winter grazing for a significant period and be part-tended by the farmer offering the grazing.

Short-term grazing deals for ewes are at a similar level to lambs, with no reports yet of longer-term deals, which have increased to as high as €1 per week in recent years for grazing on dry ground supplied well into the new year.

Farmers seeking grazing should be mindful that the economics of short-term store lamb finishing systems are not overly attractive at present and should weigh up a realistic value. In this regard, there has also been a low level of reports from farmers where significant fencing is required to force sheep to graze off heavy covers offering this grass without any fee as long as sheep are moved in immediately and the ground is temporarily fenced and grazed in the next couple of months to keep closing dates on track.

With any grazing agreements, it is important to clarify at the outset the exact conditions surrounding the length of grazing, responsibility for fencing and checking livestock etc.

Mating management: Breeding is gaining in intensity and will ramp up significantly in the coming weeks, with many flocks targeting a mid-March start to lambing. Single-sire mating has increased in frequency and is a good method of having more control in your breeding programme and monitoring performance back to the ewe and ram. It does come with a word of caution with regard to being more exposed to ram sub-fertility or infertility issues.

Raddling rams will identify higher than normal repeat rates and sound alarm bells but actions can be also be taken to minimise the effect of such an issue. Many farmers operate a system of leaving a ram with a batch of ewes for the first breeding cycle or even for a five- to seven-day period and then switch rams between groups so that if there are fertility issues the delay in breeding will be pushed back by a maximum of two weeks.

Where single-sire mating is not being carried out then it is still important to raddle rams not only to identify fertility issues but also to be in a position to accurately estimate the lambing date and implement concise feeding programmes.

Running rams in groups does not eliminate the risk of fertility issues and raddling should still be practised.

Switching rams between groups will also encourage more activity.

It is also important to spend time with new rams to ensure that they are actually serving ewes correctly and not just mounting ewes without serving, as can be the case on occasion.