How sheep farmers can have enough grass supply in time for the ‘Magic Day’



Walking the farm and keeping it simple are sheep farmer Dan O’Loughlin’s main grassland management tips for reaching the ‘magic day’ (when grass growth equals demand) on his farm near Monasterevin, Co Kildare.

The sheep farmer’s lambing season is due to start on March 6 and his mix of Belclare and Suffolk ewes are expecting over 200 lambs.

Dan’s average opening farm cover is 626 kg/ha on 32ha of land reserved for sheep.

Dan’s targeted magic day is April 10 where he will need to feed 208 ewes at a grass demand of 2.8 kg/hd/day= 582 kg dm/day and 68 ewe lambs with grass demand of 1.2 kg/hd/day= 82 kg dm/day.

Last week, Teagasc Grass10 advisors held a spring grazing management walk on his farm to advice sheep farmers how best they can utilise grass in time for their own “magic days” and for throughout the spring season.

Sub division of paddocks

Grass10 advisor John Douglas urged farmers to sub-divide their paddocks to increase grass utilisation and increase daily live-weight gain.

“Sub dividing paddocks by having electric fences that in place means that you can graze that field out again before the re growths start coming back, so Dan is able to get in on a smaller area and get out again and let the grass grow back again by having these paddocks,” he said

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He added that paddocks also allow for a more focused fertiliser system and to improve sward quality.

Growth

“Farmers should aim to have 6-8cm on the first field they are putting animals out in to. Since sheep graze down to 4cm of residuals by the autumn, 4cm of growth is needed during the closed winter months,” Mr Douglas explained

Local Teagasc advisor Christy Watson stated that they got calls from farmers in the winter who were tempted to regraze but that they advised against it as it would mean less grass in the spring.

“We had twice the growth this winter. Grass is well able to survive being closed off for 90-95 days,” he said.

“There was a temptation to regraze this year but when it is closed off for 90-95 days there is very little loss in quality. Grass is well able to survive and it all means more grass in spring.”

Nitrogen application

Nitrogen has a 10kg DM per 1kg response if applied on productive swards in the spring, which will feed four ewes for four days.

Mr Douglas highlighted how the more you spray now, the more you will reap rewards in time for the ‘magic day’ in April when grass growth and supply are the same.

Key targets

The advisors stated that pre grazing yield for sheep farms on the first rotation should be between 6-7cm for 45 days between February and March.

In April the pre grazing yield should be 7-9cm for a rotation of 18-21 days in April.

Soil fertility

“Soil fertility and infrastructure if you don’t have them right, it can make your life a lot more difficult,” says Mr Douglas.

Soil ph should be between 6.2-6.5.

Online Editors

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