Fertiliser application

The weather forecast for the next week has varied considerably over the last 24 to 48 hours, with significant rainfall in parts predicted again early next week.

Opportunities to get fertiliser applied are limited.

It is worth having some fertiliser on hand to be able to act quickly once weather conditions allow. There are all sorts of reports regarding fertiliser prices linked to the Red Sea Crisis.

There is little point in getting too caught up in these forecasts at present.

The best approach for many sheep farmers using small volumes may be to purchase just the volume of fertiliser you need now. It is worth weighing up the cost of fertiliser per unit of nitrogen when assessing fertiliser options for straight nitrogen products.

Protected urea has the benefit of being a safer product to use if its application is delayed or there is product left over, with less risk of losses.

Straight nitrogen will generally suffice to deliver a sufficient boost in grass growth where soil fertility is at reasonable to optimum levels, and particularly where slurry has been applied. Where soil fertility is deficient, then compound fertiliser will deliver additional benefits.

Decisions should be based on the results of recent soil analysis, and where this is not available then this should be the first port of call.

For highly stocked farms, the advice is generally to apply 25 to 30 units nitrogen.

For lowly stocked farms this can be reduced to 20 units, or, an alternative approach where soil fertility is variable, is to target younger swards with good fertility that will deliver the best return.

Sheep scab and lice

Sheep scab is being blamed as the cause of increasing reports of sheep scratching due to external parasites. While scab appears to be on the rise, there is also an increased incidence of lice, and in cases fungal issues are to blame.

The first port of call for many flocks approaching lambing and too far advanced to dip is to inject sheep.

It is critical that you know that scab is definitely the cause and not lice, as injectable products do not cover lice. Sheep scab mites are brown in colour, round and are tiny – barely visible to the naked eye.

They feed on flesh and are generally found on the skin where scabby lesions and wool loss are characteristics of scab.

In contrast, lice are easier seen by the naked eye and move through the wool. Lice are long, shaped similar to a wasp with a yellow or pale brown colour.

Your vet will be able to diagnose the parasites present by examining using magnification or taking a sample for examination under a microscope.

Orf vaccine

There have been numerous queries of late regarding the availability of an orf vaccine in 2024. Zoetis Animal Health have manufactured Scabigard which is essentially a replacement of the previous vaccine but with a new name.

The company reports that product is being released this week and should be available for farmers to purchase next week through their veterinary practitioner.

SIS reminder

The final date for new entrants to apply to the SIS is 5pm on Thursday 29 February 2024.