Grass event to help sheep farmers ‘play catch up’ on a late season

As fodder supplies become scarce across the country, playing ‘catch up’ once grass starts to grow will be more important than ever before.

Farmers are invited to attend a profit-led sheep open day on April 14 hosted by Kevin and Anna McCarthy at Ballycreelly Road, Comber, Co. Down.

Dr. Aurelie Aubry from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) will be offering advice on how to maximise returns from this season’s stunted grass.

Measuring and monitoring

Dr. Aubry said 2018 is the year to start officially monitoring grass growth.

“Grass is the cheapest form of feed and, if you are going to optimise its use in what’s going to be a shorter season, then monitoring and benchmarking will help you to manage it,” she said.

Measure by taking a leaf out of dairy farmers’ books and invest in a plate meter – it’s a great decision-making tool that will pay dividends helping you to evaluate just how much grass is available.

“Once you’ve a better idea, then you can set meaningful targets, and respond more quickly; for example, deciding the best time to apply nitrogen and best time to move on ewes and lambs – don’t graze covers any further than 1,500kg DM/ha.

“Benchmark against AFBI’s GrassCheck project, which provides weekly updates of grass growth and quality throughout the grazing season, and also weekly grass growth predictions.”

Avoiding grass shortages

“Consider introducing rotational grazing to improve both lamb and grass growth. Optimal stocking rate varies across farms and is usually between 10 and 15 ewes per hectare. Previous research findings have demonstrated lamb performance to improve by up to 30%.

“And if you want to avoid risking grass shortages next season, then consider introducing an alternative crop this summer such as a brassica,” she said. “Brassicas can be used for lamb finishing from August onwards or ewe management over winter.”

The event will discuss the following topics:
  • Improving commercial lamb value by £3 a head and increasing pedigree ram value by up to £400 a head;
  • Maximising farm labour efficiency including the use of adequate and safe handling facilities;
  • Improving efficiency with sheep EID technology;
  • Meeting processors’ expectations.

Speakers will include: Dr. Eileen McCloskey, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE); George Megarry, TGM; and George Williamson, Dunbia.

Scanner William Tait will demonstrate ultra sound scanning.

Event chairman, National Sheep Association’s Edward Adamson, said the day would be “very useful” for both pedigree and commercial breeders looking to maximise their returns.

The event – Sheep Production: Maximise Your Returns – will be staged at Mossbank Farm, Ballycreelly Road, Comber BT23 5PX on Saturday, April 14, beginning at 1:00pm. The event will be hosted by Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders’ Association Ireland.

Further information is available from Kevin McCarthy on: 077-8532-5028.