With bumper lamb numbers due this spring, having the best feed available will be a priority for farmers wanting to achieve optimum live-weight growth, especially with subdued market prices.
Sheep scanning results are showing improvement over last season with 2012 lamb numbers expected to be about 4% up on last year which means an extra 1 million mouths to feed this spring.
Ballance Agri-Nutrients Research and Development Manager Warwick Catto says with lambing rates up, the quality and quantity of nutrition will play an important role in determining growth of stock, and nitrogen has a big role to play.
“Feed quality has a major influence on the level of production achieved by ewes and lambs,” says Mr Catto.
“With the current lamb pricing schedule averaging less than $100 a lamb this season, capitalising on lamb numbers by ensuring strong growth rates is all important and will be the best way to strengthen the balance sheet this season.”
Mr Catto says nitrogen is the best grass growth accelerator heading in to spring.
“After lambing, the feed needs for the flock increase by about half in just the first week and that’s with an average number of lambs. If lambing rates are higher, more feed will be needed.”
Mr Catto says nitrogen applied before lambing will provide the best response, providing ground temperatures are high enough.
“It doesn’t really matter what form of nitrogen is used, it just needs to be applied early enough to give that boost the pasture needs prior to lambing. A lighter application over a large area is best and farmers will get the best response from their investment in nitrogen if they programme in a spelling period before gazing.”
Mr Catto recommends a spelling period of two weeks for maximum benefit.
“A nitrogen boost at the right time will mean pasture will grow about 30% faster. This extra growth could be the difference between pasture covers dropping to levels where stock is not fully fed and maintaining pasture covers that allow for good production levels.”