Sheep grassland management: Closing up paddocks for next spring a priority

The recent poor weather conditions have forced some farmers to house their animals, with others starting to close up paddocks for the winter.

The wet weather has also led to a deterioration in grazing conditions – making avoiding poaching damage and reaching residuals increasingly tricky.

Therefore, it is time for farmers to begin closing paddocks for next spring, so that grass is available for ewes and their newly-born lambs.

Autumn is the starting point of the grassland year; therefore, decisions made now will have a direct affect on the quality of grass available next spring.

Recommended guidelines:

  • The first paddocks closed should be sheltered and close to the lambing area;
  • Pastures should be grazed out tight to a residual of 3.5-4cm;
  • Use temporary electric fencing if required to reach post-grazing targets without forcing sheep to graze to low heights for a prolonged period;
  • Do not re-graze closed paddocks.

Closing paddocks now – while the grass is still growing – will ensure that there are adequate covers of grass next spring.

Furthermore, when grass growth starts to increase again in February and March, the fields closed now will respond quickest to increasing temperatures and an early application of fertiliser.

Recommendations for when and how much should be closed off. Data source: Teagasc

Moreover, it is important to graze paddocks down to a residual of 3.5-4cm. This, in turn, will allow for a better regrowth.

Grazing below this will have a negative impact on grass growth and will encourage weeds to grow instead.

In essence, come next spring, farmers should be grazing covers of between 8cm and 10cm.

Covers of this height – that are palatable and of good quality – will help ewes’ milk production and allow them to maintain condition while carrying their lambs.