How the grass supply is high on this Kerry farm despite fertilizer reduction

Grass supply was higher than previous years at Tomas O’Leary’s 40 ha (99 ac) two-block farm in Headford, Co. Kerry, even with fertilizer nitrogen applications down by 25%.

p Until three weeks ago it was 1 tDM/ha more than in the previous year. However, grass growth has slowed considerably in recent weeks – hampered by a lack of rain – and is now just 300 kg DM/ha more than last year.

A grass walk on June 19 showed that growth was below demand for the first time this year (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 the need for 600 bales for the winter. There were 150 bales left from last winter.

Around 400 bales have been harvested so far, 260 of which were from a special silage cut and 140 from paddocks that were removed from the pasture sequence.

A second cut of silage is due to be harvested in mid-July with an expected yield of 150 bales, leaving a surplus of around 100 bales for the winter.


All cattle manure was spread over the spring, all using LESS (Trailing Shoe) at a rate of 2,000 gal/ac.

After harvesting the second cut, farmyard manure is spread on the silo floor.


Tomas seeded 5ac with Coolfin white clover at a rate of 3kg/ac after a silage cut. Emergence of clover seeds has been quite good, but recent drought seems to be hampering the seedlings.

performance of sheep

Ten lambs have been fed in so far, killed at 47.4 per cent and costing an average of €164.30 gross at €8.30/kg. Another 18 lambs are ready to be fed.

All lambs are weaned around July 1, and the weaned lambs are placed in a paddock containing a multispecies sod that was sown four years ago and now consists primarily of plantain and perennial ryegrass.

The chicory and most of the white clover didn’t last.

Most lambs are grass-fed (with the exception of pet lambs and lambs raised by ewes). After weaning, Tomas will set up a final group of lambs over 80lbs that will be offered 300g of concentrate per day in addition to good grass until weaning.

As lambs are fed from this group, additional lambs over 38 kg are added from the grass-fed group.


The herd grazes on Tomas’ farm


Approximately 60 ewe lambs are selected as replacements at the time of weaning based on their mother’s live weight and performance history.

herd health

The worm load of the lambs is checked every 14 days by counting eggs in the faeces. The final egg count was 200 eggs per gram (strongyle), suggesting no treatment is required.

Lambs received only two Nematodirus treatments with benzimidazole (white wormer). Three quarters of them were extra treated with CLIK in early May, with the lambs further ahead being treated with Clikzin to control the blowfly beat.

Adult ewes were shorn in early May as Tomas has a problem with ewes lying on their backs in spring. All Hogget ewes were shorn in mid-June.


Tomas is one of the demonstration farmers in the Trailblazer program, using practices to reduce gaseous emissions and nutrient losses, manage and improve biodiversity, and reduce costs.

Michael Gottstein is Head of Teagasc’s Sheep KT Program in Macroom, Co. Cork How the grass supply is high on this Kerry farm despite fertilizer reduction

Fry Electronics Team

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