Friday, December 09, 2022

How is the supply of hay on this Kerry farm going despite the shortage of manure?

Hay supplies have been higher than in previous years on two blocks in Hedford, Co Kerry, on Tomas O’Leary’s 40ha (99ac) farm, even with fertilizer nitrogen applications down 25pc.

p As of three weeks ago, it was up 1tDM/ha over the previous year. However, grass growth has slowed significantly in recent weeks – hindered by a lack of rain – and is now only 300 kgdm/ha ahead of last year.

Grass walks on June 19 showed that for the first time this year, growth fell below demand (45 kg/ha compared to 58 kg/ha). But the farm is 13 days ahead of where it should be, and rain is forecast.

silage budget

A silage budget indicated a need for 600 bales for the winter. There were 150 bales left from last winter.

So far, around 400 bales have been harvested, of which 260 were from a dedicated silage cut and 140 were from paddocks removed by rotation of pastures.

The second harvesting of silage is to be done in mid-July with an expected yield of 150 bales, leaving a surplus of around 100 bales for the winter.


All cattle slurry is dispensed in spring time, all using LESS (Trailing Shoe) at the rate of 2,000 gal/ac.

After the second harvesting, the manure of the field will be spread on the silage ground.


After silage cut, Tomas sowed 5ac with coulfin white clover @ 3kg/acre. The emergence of clover seeds was quite good, but recent drought conditions are hindering transplanting.

sheep display

So far ten lambs have been drafted, which have been killed at €8.30/kg, before a cut of 47.4pc and an average of €164.30. Another 18 lambs are ready to be hatched.

All lambs will be weaned around July 1, and weaned lambs will be moved to a paddock with a multi-species flock that was sown four years ago and now consists mainly of bananas and perennial ryegrass.

Chicory and most white clover do not survive.

Most lambs are on a grass diet (with the exception of domesticated lambs and sheep lambs of sheep). After weaning, Tomas will establish a finishing group of lambs that are over 38 kg and will be fed concentrate of 300 g/day with the addition of fine hay till they are weaned.

Since lambs are raised from this group, more than 38 kg of lambs will be added to the grass fed group.


Herd grazing on Tomas’s field


Based on the performance history of the liveweight and their dam, around 60 lambs will be selected as replacements at weaning.

herd health

The burden of lamb worms is being checked on fortnightly basis using fecal egg count. Most recently the egg count returned to 200 eggs per gram (strongile), which indicates that treatment is not needed.

Lambs have only received two nematodiverse treatments of benzimidazoles (white worms). Three-quarters of them were treated with CLIK addition in early May, and more further lambs were treated with CliKzine to control blowfly strikes.

Mature sheep were culled in early May because Tomas has a problem with sheep running on his back in spring time. All Hoggett ewes were harvested in mid-June.


Tomas is one of the farmers demonstrating at the Signpost program, which adopts practices to reduce gaseous emissions and nutrient losses, manage and increase biodiversity, and reduce costs.

Michael Gottstein heads up Teagasque’s Sheep Katie program, MacRoom, Co., Cork.

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