For flocks lambing in early March, at this stage – five-to-six weeks post-turnout – lambs will be starting to consume more grass.
It has been, and still is, a very unsettled spring. As we head further into April, the hope is that grass growth will continue to improve and hopefully, the weather does too.
The cold snap this past week will have put a dampener on growth temporarily.
Although over the past few weeks it seems as if grass growth has slowly been improving, and going by Pasturebase Ireland figures, that is the case (although not everywhere in the country).
As lambs get older, grass demand is going to increase on farms, and these demands need to be met in order to drive on lamb performance.
Targets and closing silage ground
For farms that lambed early in March, the target around now would be to have 80% of the farm grazed.
For farms that are behind and are grazing heavy covers, and for those that have most of the farm grazed and are tight for grass, it would be best to group together ewes and lambs.
This would be especially relevant for the latter, as it will give more of the farm a chance to grow and to reduce the residency period in fields, rather than having ewes and lambs scattered around the farm.
Tightening up ewes and lambs would also be a good idea, in order to be able to close up ground for silage.
If grass supplies are tight and growth isn’t what it should be then meal feeding will have to be continued (at a rate of 0.5-1.0kg depending on farm circumstances).
For flocks grazing heavy covers, it’s important to graze these covers down tight and avoid leaving stemmy grass behind, as it will reduce grass quality in future rotations.
For the first rotation, the target is to graze down to a post-residual height of 3.5-4.0cm.
Providing leafy grass to lambs
We want, as lambs get older – around six-to-seven weeks-of-age – to have access to leafy palatable grass going into the second rotation.
So, in order to grow this leafy grass, tightening up groups and making ewes graze down and work harder will help to achieve this. Temporary fencing is a good option to split up large fields in order to force ewes to graze down tighter.
As the weeks progress, ewes’ milk yield will be dropping off, and we need to be in a position where we have good-quality grass for these lambs to graze as this occurs.
In terms of fertiliser application now, getting 20-30kg of nitrogen out per acre would be the recommended target.
For farms that carried out a soil test, now would be a good time to address any issues that may have arisen.