Signpost: I have used 25% less chemical N fertiliser this year

Signpost: I have used 25% less chemical N fertiliser this year

Sheep farmer Tomas O'Leary: "I have had Minister Joe O’Brien visit the farm recently. He has been anxious to get out and visit some Signpost farms and learn more about what farmers are doing on the ground to reduce emissions." Picture: Don MacMonagle

I have two cuts of silage taken, 650 bales in total. I need just 600, so I have a nice bit of a reserve if things go wrong.

Just doing my figures on fertiliser use, I have used 25% less chemical N fertiliser, year to date. This has been driven by the high price of fertiliser. I set a budget for myself at the beginning of the year and have pretty much stuck to it. 

It will be interesting to see how my grass growth will have faired over the year, compared to last year. Early indications are good but it's really when I look at total grass production at the end of the year that I will see the impact (or not) of less chemical N spread.

At the moment I have a growth rate of 56 kg DM/ha and a demand of 46 kg DM/ha, so I have 16 days ahead. The target for this time of year is 12-18 days so I’m about right. The quality is quite good too.

I oversowed five acres with clover this year and so far it's looking good. I am grazing very low covers ~ 600 kg DM/ha and while I might increase that to 800 kg DM/ha, I won’t go beyond that. I will manage it differently later in the Autumn though. 

I have eight acres that I oversowed last year and it's very poor this year. I am putting it down to a high growth over the winter and, even though I closed it with a low cover, by the time I had it grazed in the Spring the clover had probably been smothered out. The sward of the 5 acres oversown this year is also very dense so I need to be really careful to not smother out the light from the growing clover.

I have had Minister Joe O’Brien visit the farm recently. He has been anxious to get out and visit some Signpost farms and learn more about what farmers are doing on the ground to reduce emissions. It's good to see politicians visiting farmers and having an appreciation of what we are doing, particularly given all the negative press we are getting.

I am also involved in a few research projects alongside the advisory support that I get. It's great to be involved in research that will provide additional solutions to the issues concerning farmers. 

In the next few weeks, we will have a portable accumulation chamber being delivered to the farm. Basically, it’s a chamber that will measure methane and CO2 emissions from the ewes and the data collected will be used to help develop an index for breeding ewes with low methane emissions. It's another part of the jigsaw helping us to reduce emissions.

Another project that I am involved in is looking at wormer resistance which is a major issue in the industry and a big concern for the future. A number of lambs on the farm will be dung sampled in the next few weeks. 

They will be worm-dosed and then dung sampled again. From this, the researchers will be able to identify the level of resistance to wormers in my flock. It's called a faecal egg reduction test. It was done 4-5 years ago and at that stage, I had no resistance to clear and yellow drenches and a small bit of resistance to white drenches. It will be interesting to see how I fare this time around.

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