31 August 1998
Sheep offer key to dairy production
Sheep can offer the key to good dairy production, reports a sheep specialist writing in The Scotsman.
Good silage is critical to low-cost milk production. Grazing before January with sheep can improve the quality of material ensiled the following year, but only if it is done right.
By grazing next years silage area with sheep, the accumulated low-quality material which develops in a grazed sward over the summer is removed.
Removing the material before slurry is important. Areas of long, slurry-contaminated grass increase silage ash content and bacterial contamination.
It is recommended that sheep grazing should remove grass quickly over two to three days. Lambs should be purchased as forward stores within five kilos of finished weight so that they finish quickly and can be sold, reducing stocking rate as grass disappears.
The writer says that by allowing light to reach the base of the sward in autumn, grass tillering and clover stolon survival is improved., leading to thicker swards with a higher clover content. Sheep grazing is essential for farmers dependent on clover.
He concludes by recommending that farmers own the sheep and use them specifically to improve grass.