As the days get shorter and grass growth continues to slow up, thoughts should be turning to building grass for next spring in the coming weeks.

Springtime, over the last few years, has thrown up many challenges and has left grass supplies on farms rather short for many, due to poor weather causing unsuitable grazing conditions and the inability to get fertiliser out on land.

To avoid this problem next spring and to ensure adequate grass availability for ewes lambing, thoughts should turn to beginning to close paddocks from mid- to late October onwards – while grass is still growing.

Fields closed early in autumn tend to respond more swiftly to increasing temperatures and an early application of fertiliser in early spring.

On farms where the housing of ewes is not an option, careful management will be needed.

Options that can be used include:

  • Ewes can be managed in an extended grazing system on grass built up earlier in the autumn with grass allocated daily or every second day;
  • Ewes could also be wintered on forage crops;
  • Ewes could be moved away to winter grazing;
  • Feeding hay/silage and concentrates outdoors.

What is critical is that ewes and any other sheep on the farm, are not let graze mass areas of the farm, rather confine them to a smaller area of the farm (less than 20%) so as to allow grass to build up over the coming months.

Feeding a large amount of meal post-lambing should be avoided next spring

Try to avoid the urge to re-graze ground in late December and January as that grass which has been built up, will be much more critical to have available once ewes lamb down.

Teagasc has said that a ewe’s feed requirement in mid-pregnancy is approximately half that of a ewe in early lactation producing milk for two lambs, therefore maintaining this grass for ewes and their lambs is of much greater importance.

Key tips:

  • The first paddocks closed should be sheltered and close to the lambing shed;
  • Fields/paddocks should be grazed out tight to 3.5–4cm and use temporary electric fencing to reach post-grazing targets if needed;
  • Do not re-graze closed paddocks.