85% of lambs ‘can be finished off grass’

It is achievable to finish up to 85% of lambs off grass alone, according to Teagasc Research Officer Philip Creighton.

Speaking to a large audience at the Teagasc Sheep Open Day held in Athenry on Wednesday, June 21, Creighton introduced the crowd to a study being carried out locally.

He said: “There is a current study investigating the effects of stocking rate and ewe prolificacy-potential within Irish grass-based systems of sheep production.

“In the study, there are three different stocking rates – 10,12, and 14 ewes/ha. It was found in the study that increasing stocking rates actually decreased individual lamb performance and increased days-to-slaughter.”

Creighton added: “The flock that was stocked at 14 ewes/ha had 230 days-to-slaughter, compared to a lower stocking rate of 10 ewes/ha, which only had 203 days-to-slaughter.

Prolificacy level had no effect on lifetime average daily gain or days-to-slaughter.

Athenry sheep
5-star replacement Irish sheep in Athenry

According to the research officer, anyone can increase their output, but doing it with extra concentrates is expensive, making grass utilisation “key”.

However, Creighton explained that there were “potential limitations” to increasing the stocking rate above 12 ewes/ha in a grass-based lamb production system.

He said: “Increasing stocking rate above 12 ewes/ha can reduce the lifetime performance of lambs. Producers should be careful not to increase stocking rate too much, which is influenced by the farm’s grass-growing potential.

“Grass-growing potential should be what influences the decision to increase stocking rates.”