In this week’s Farmer’s Diary, sheep farmer, Clodagh Hughes, discusses weather, land conditions, the absolute cessation of any grass growth, cobalt deficiency and more.
Ok, let’s have a show of hands, good people! Who is glad to see the rain back and with cooler temperatures?
Be honest now; I cannot be the only one. Whether you are a farmer or not, I think we all needed a reprieve from that spell of intense heat. I have not even started on how badly the ground and animals needed it.
The land I farm is predominantly clayey soil. Although this makes for good drainage during wet weather, it also means it dries out very quickly during periods of drought.
This, in turn, throws up several challenges that, at times, are very stressful and a cause of worry for me as a sheep farmer.
The absolute cessation of any grass growth
The biggest issue I faced in recent weeks was the absolute cessation of any grass growth.
After applying fertiliser, topping weeds and general grassland maintenance, it is very difficult to watch the normally lush green grass wither and scorch before your very eyes.
Not only is the grass growth affected, but the thrive of my lambs is also impacted as they are not getting as much nutritional goodness from crispy yellow grass.
I was very close to having to supplement their diet with meal rations. Perhaps, I should have done so, but I made a calculated decision based on the upcoming weather forecast, and if I shuffled the animals about, I could capitalise on what pastures I had with a bit of grass cover. And close off some to recover.
As long as the weather continues to favour our famous Irish farming climate, I know the ground will recover, and my sheep will pick up where they’d left off.
You would not believe it, but already the grass is greener with the wee bit of rain we have had in the last 24 hours.
Change of subject now; I gathered my lambs in yesterday to tidy up a few dirty bums, and with fly season in full swing, it was just as well.
In fact, one ewe lamb had the beginnings of a scaldy patch on the base of her tail. With the heat and moisture here being perfect for the flies to lay their eggs, I got her just in time.
Although I treat them with a preventative product, there is always a risk of flystrike occurring in sheep.
I also gave the lambs an oral dose of cobalt. Last year, I learnt that this is a very important trace element that my ground is deficient in.
And I also learnt how important it is to all ruminants; (sheep, cattle and goats) in the synthesis of B12.
B12 is stored in the sheep’s liver and is necessary for producing energy and vital for wool and body growth.
In the past, I had seen my lambs going great guns, and then all of a sudden, they seemed to be going backwards.
Sometimes the solution can be as simple as a dietary assessment and amendment If only all problems were so easily fixed!