Litter sizes up on most sheep farms

Ewes have scanned very well this year with the result that litter size is up within most flocks, according to country-wide performance updates referenced in Teagasc’s February advisory newsletter for sheep producers.

On the back of this, farmers are being advised to adjust their pre-lambing feeding routine accordingly. Ewes with multiples (twins, triplets and quads) should be segregated and fed according to litter size.

Those sheep carrying triplets and quads should have been started on concentrate feed eight to 10 weeks out from lambing, depending on forage quality.

Teagasc advisors are also pointing out that pregnant ewes need high quality concentrate feed that consists of both high and medium quality energy inputs plus a good quality protein source.

The best protein source for sheep is soyabean meal, it says, and all concentrate feed should be balanced for vitamins and minerals.

Teagasc has also confirmed that the relatively mild winter has led to significant quantities of available grass on fields that were closed up last autumn. The challenge now, it says, is to keep grass growing and to provide sufficient high quality fresh forage for the ewes during March and April.

February is the time to consider spreading fertiliser or slurry to boost spring grass growth. But these applications will only have the required impact when environmental conditions are conducive to forage growth.

Once soil temperatures reach 6 °C, and provided that ground conditions are suitable for a tractor to travel, then the first application of chemical fertiliser should be made. Where soil samples indicate that there is a deficiency of phosphorus (P), potassium (K) or lime, this should also be rectified.

Failure to do this will result in much of the applied fertiliser beinglocked in the soil, thereby making it totally unavailable to the grass plant.

Urea cannot be sown if ground limestone has been spread on land within the previous four to six months and there is no point in spreading chemical fertiliser if there is heavy rain forecast for the ensuing 48 hours, Teagasc says.

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