Find out how to manage a flock of 255 to 2,400 ewes at the Grassland Conference

This year’s Irish Grassland Association (IGA) Sheep Conference heads to Wicklow and will focus on managing grass during May and June along with steps farmers can take to improve the performance of their flock.

The conference will take place tomorrow (April 26) in Lawless’ Hotel Aughrim Co. Wicklow, followed by an afternoon farm walk with local farmer John Pringle.

Pringle runs a sheep and suckler-to-beef enterprise on land described as relatively dry but vulnerable to late growth, rising to about 650m above sea level at the highest point.

The sheep enterprise includes a 255 mid-season lambing ewe flock along with 70 lambing yearling hoggets.

A main focal point of the farm walk surrounds setting up and managing the farm through the critical May and June period for grassland management.

Huge gains have been made in this area in recent years with the farm focusing on improving performance and output from grazed grass.

A paddock system has also been set up on the farm and while Pringle says a slow spring may still leave grass tight, grass quality is easier to manage.

Pringle has also focused on feeding the soil with compound fertilisers as the season progresses and soils with low pH and fertility are identified for special attention.

Along with focusing on soil fertility, Pringle has also a reseeding programme in place and is planning to experiment with some alternative forage crops such as plantain and chicory in 2016.

Pringle will also discuss the new breeding policy on the farm, which incorporates Belclare and New Zealand/Irish Suffolk genetics, which resulted in a litter size of 1.98 lambs/per ewe this year.

Ewe lamb performance will also be discussed, as they had 1.04 lambs each after a three-week breeding season.

Grassland conference line-up

Back in the hotel, grass utilisation and the latest research from PastureBase will be presented by Teagasc’s Micheal O’Leary.

This session will give an explanation of the new PastureBase Ireland recording system and give a flavour of the Teagasc grassland programme including a look into what grasses and clover varieties are performing for sheep farmers.

UCD’s Tommy Boland will also speak about the latest findings from the mixed species grazing trial in Lyons Research farm.

Welsh sheep farmer and Nuffield Scholar Neil Perkins will also discuss the grassland management on his farm, where he runs a flock of 2,400 ewes.

Attending the conference

The conference fee is €30 for IGA members and €60 for non-members. This includes attendance at the conference, tea or coffee on arrival and a hot lunch.

Registration for the event which is sponsored by Mullinahone Co-op and Gene Ireland takes place from 10.30am. And, farmers attending can book the conference at www.irishgrassland.com.