John Martin

8 August 1997

John Martin

John Martin farms in partnership with his parents on the Ards Peninsula 15 miles south of Belfast. The 65ha (160-acre) Gordonall farm and 16ha (40 acres) of rented land carry 400 Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a small flock of Suffolks and 40 spring calving sucklers. About 20ha (50 acres) of barley is grown for feed and for sale

ONE local farmer recently proclaimed after his first cut that good weather for silage making was nothing to do with luck, but good management on his part. I know farmers may claim to have supernatural powers at times, but Ill stick with trying to be lucky, being a lesser mortal.

It has paid off twice this year; our second cut picked up on July 23 in bright sunny conditions, after a 24-hour wilt. Fortunately, the temperature dropped sufficiently to allow covering of the silo in relative comfort.

This years forage conservation is almost at an end having taken 97 big bales from seven acres of the grazing area.

Showers throughout the season have stopped grassland from scorching as in recent years, but growth has been limited in the last few weeks. We applied 75kg/acre of 27.5% nitrogen to the grazing area in late July to help encourage the grass growth needed for flushing and mating ewes.

Rams were introduced to the 65 December lambers on July 11 but their activity has been slower than expected. The 110 January lambers had four weeks on good grass before joining the rams on Aug 4.

The last of the ewes have been dried off and will be kept tightly stocked until mid-September.

The early lambs this year have averaged £55.60, down on 1996, a continuing trend for the rest of the year. Hopefully, replacement ewe prices will be more realistic as a result but as a seller of Suffolk shearling rams, I have mixed emotions.

The lambs are looking well on silage aftermath with the first of the March crop sold in mid-July. All the lambs were crutched with electric shears to remove the wool from the tail area. This decision was made after last year when we seemed to waste a couple of hours dagging dirty lambs every time they were in the pens to be sorted. It certainly seems to have kept them cleaner and helped to reduce fly strike which has been a problem in the area.

We kept a close eye for the tell-tale signs of tail shaking and stains on the wool, until we got a chance to give all the sheep their summer dip on July 24, using the sheep shower.

The cows, now all calved, are running with either Limousin or Belgian Blue bulls. Nine cow and calf units were sold recently to a top of £780, well down on earlier sales. They were surplus to requirements and hopefully the market will strengthen as buyers look for replacements to fill their suckler cow quota claims.

The last of the calves were dehorned, although a couple were nearly left too long. Thank goodness for anaesthetic, but I sometimes feel I have a greater need of it than the calves.n

The last of the ewes have been dried off and the lambs are looking well on silage aftermath.

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