There is a contrasting picture emerging across the country regarding grassland management. Farms in the east of the country are witnessing a growing soil moisture deficit which is affecting grass growth rates to varying degrees.
With no rain in the forecast and grass supplies likely to tighten, the approach on such farms should be to proceed with caution and make decisions on the basis of existing grass supplies and a realistic prediction on growth rates.
This may mean delaying taking surplus grass out of the rotation to prevent a grass deficit occurring until a clearer picture develops. It is also advisable to hold off on topping as it will hit re-growths.
February and early March lambing flocks with lambs aged upwards of 13 to 14 weeks of age can consider weaning lambs to conserve grass supplies and prioritise the best-quality grass for lambs.
In most other areas grass supplies are good, with soil moisture in a much better position. Try to keep on top of grass-quality. Where growth rates remain above demand then grass quality will be harder to manage.
The grazing rotation should be in the region of 10-14 days on such farms, but be mindful to the potential of an increasing soil moisture deficit.
The target pre-grazing height of grass should be in the region of 7cm to 9cm or a cover of 1,250kg to 1,500kg DM/ha. The target post-grazing height will depend on how tight the sward was grazed previously.
Many areas in the west were tightly grazed due to challenges in getting fertiliser applied, with lower growth rates early in the season now aiding quality. These paddocks can be grazed down to 4cm to 4.5cm. Where swards have accumulated lower-quality material at the base of the sward, then the post-grazing sward height should be adjusted accordingly.
From June onwards, decisions on treating lambs for worms should ideally be based on the results of faecal egg counts. The Targeted Advisory Service on Animal Health (TASAH) continues its programme with cattle and sheep farmers in 2023.
As part of the initiative farmers will receive a consultation with a trained veterinary practitioner and two faecal egg counts funded by the TASAH.
The application portal and a map detailing participating veterinary practitioners can be found at animalhealthireland.ie/programmes under the heading ‘Parasite Control’.
Sheep Improvement Scheme
A number of actions concerning lambs in the Sheep Improvement Scheme commence in June. The parasite control action requires participating lowland flocks to submit a minimum of two faecal egg counts (FEC) between 1 June and 30 September.
Hill sheep flocks must take one FEC in the four weeks post-weaning.
The flystrike control option requires farmers who selected this action to adopt a flystrike control programme incorporating mechanical means for the prevention of blowfly strike in addition to chemical control where applicable.
The timing of intervention and number of sheep dagged must be recorded, and sheep must be flocked at least once from 1 June to 30 September for the action.
Mineral supplementation of lambs post-weaning is applicable to hill flocks, and requires farmers to administer mineral supplementation at least once during the grazing season. Supplementation may take the form of injectables, boluses, drenches or liquid minerals.