Winter crops require their first nitrogen applications soon if not already applied
Winter crops require their first nitrogen applications soon if not already applied

GRASSLAND MANAGEMENT: Starting the grazing season - Grass is still the cheapest feed for livestock enterprises.

Now is the time to apply nitrogen fertiliser, particularly on drier fields with some grass cover.

It is also a good time to review your soil analysis reports remembering that reports for soils sampled in the last four years are still relevant. If you have not spread slurry yet or applied compound fertiliser there is still time to carry out soil analysis. If you need help with interpreting your soil report contact your local Beef and Sheep Development Adviser.

Nitrogen (N)

Urea (46% N) works best if there is some grass cover and enough moisture in the soil. Nitrochalk (27% N) works under a wider range of conditions and is a better choice for bare pastures and drier conditions. Superstart (34% N), which is a combination of urea and nitrochalk, is also a good option for an early spring dressing.

Phosphate (P)

Apply fertiliser containing P only where there is a need shown through soil analysis for that area of land. Soil analysis reports for the last four years can be used. This is a requirement under the Nitrates Action Programme and Phosphorus Regulations. For example, a soil with a phosphate index of two does not require any P for grazing.

Potash (K)

Check K levels, particularly on intensive silage areas where there is a very high demand. If insufficient levels are applied, K can drop to low levels, for example index one which is low or zero which is deficient. Low K levels affect grass performance and silage yields.


Preparation for lambing

Many of you are preparing to lamb the ewe flock over the next month. Gemma Daly MRCVS, CAFRE vet based at Greenmount, in recent talks to young farmers pointed out the importance of a good quality ration for sheep in the last month before lambing. A ration with a good cereal content, soya as the main source of protein and adequate levels of vitamin E and selenium is recommended. Provide a minimum of 150 iu vitamin E per kilogramme and 50 mg of selenium per kilogramme.

Gemma also points out the importance of worming the ewe flock at an opportune time around lambing. Her advice is to worm the ewes with a product that is normally used on the farm and to leave 10% of the flock untreated. This helps avoid the build up of resistant worms to a particular product in the sheep flock. The untreated sheep should be the fitter ewes, preferably ewes carrying singles.

If sheep were treated for fluke in December or January and have not been exposed to wet areas then a fluke treatment is not required at this time.

Ideally carry out vaccinations four weeks before lambing to allow adequate time to build up enough antibodies in the ewes’ colostrum.

Monitor abortions in the flock. If a number of abortions occur over a short period of time isolate the ewes and disinfect the area followed by veterinary investigation of the aborted material including the ‘cleansings’. It is important not to adopt female lambs onto aborted ewes as there is a risk the lambs could pick up the infection and abort when lambing down for the first time if kept as breeding stock.

Gemma also recommends leaving adequate time for ewes to lamb. If there is little progress in lambing after half an hour from the time the amniotic sack (water bag) bursts then intervention can start. Good hygiene along with the use of gloves and gel is important. If there are complications with multiple births or large lambs call the vet at an early stage, as working too long with a ewe at lambing often results in internal injuries.