‘It has been a challenging year for sheep farmers’ – Teagasc’s John Kelly

Teagasc held its beef and sheep seminar titled ‘Practical Advice for a Challenging Time’ at the Tullamore Court Hotel, Co. Offaly.

The event, which took place on Wednesday, November 13, gathered a good crowd despite poor weather conditions.

Speaking at the seminar, Teagasc sheep specialist John Kelly outlined the challenges that sheep farmers have faced in 2019 and what farmers can do to improve the efficiency of their flock over the winter period.

“The events that have unfolded this year in the sheep sector were largely out of the control of farmers.

The huge backlog of lambs caused by the protests and the poor weather conditions have made it difficult for farmers to adhere to the Clean Livestock Policy (CLP), which has resulted in huge losses for sheep farmers.

“However, over the coming months, farmers’ focus should be on getting rid of their remaining store lambs and prioritising the breeding ewe.”

John’s presentation focused on three topics.

These included:

  • What do with store lambs;
  • Maximising lamb value;
  • How to ensure you have grass next spring.

He also offered some management tips to farmers over the winter period to maximise efficiency and to reduce production costs.

“Keeping lambs clean indoors should be a priority and offering high-quality feed is needed to maximise production.

Regular bedding and avoiding overstocking of lambs in pens is required to reduce the risk of disease.

“Furthermore, offering good-quality silage of at least 70% dry matter digestibility (DMD) is important, as lambs fed poor-quality silage will require extra concentrates to bring them to the required target weight.

“To adhere to the CLP, dagging dirty lambs before housing should be a priority,” John added.

Maximising lamb value

John offered some advice to farmers regarding maximising the value of their store lambs.

“Farmers should hold out and avoid killing underweight lambs; a liveweight of 48kg at slaughter offers farmers the best chance of getting a decent price for their lambs.

Also, it is important farmers speak to the factory about the ‘spec’ and the penalty policy they have in place to ensure that they are rewarded with a good price.

“If it is a case that farmers have light lambs and are not in a position to finish them, then selling them in the mart is the best option considering how good the store trade has been of late,” John added.

Priority

Finally, John spoke about the importance of building grass covers over the winter period and that farmers should prioritise the breeding ewe over the next few months.

“Building grass covers for next spring starts now. There is no point in re-grazing paddocks as there won’t be sufficient grass covers next spring for the ewe to carry her lambs and for her to produce enough milk.

“It takes up to 120 days to build up sufficient grass covers, so I would advise farmers to start closing off paddocks now,” John concluded.

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