Kilkenny farmer William Hutchinson uses Redstart to provide a high quality, high protein forage for finishing lambs.
The Hutchinson family farm at Chapelizod, Kells, Co Kilkenny and run an 800 commercial and pedigree ewe enterprise. The breeding flock comprises of 600 commercial ewes which include Easy Care x Belclares, 40 pedigree Texels, 35 pedigree Suffolks and 35 pedigree Île de France.
The kale/rape hybrid, Redstart, is normally sown in early May over a 10 acre plot with the first graze expected by the first week of July. The crop is divided into four blocks for continuous rotational grazing and ease of management, finishing 80-100 lambs per acre.
High energy brassicas have formed a key component of the Hutchinson’s system for the last 15 years, primarily as a means of finishing lambs. Each block of Redstart is grazed on a rotation post weaning, and lambs are moved between plots every six to seven days; leaving the crop stalk to help promote re-growth. The crop is then re-grazed after around four weeks.
Redstart is used as the primary basis for finishing lambs, and acts as a low-cost solution to achieving a target of 250 grams per day. Feeding a good crop of Redstart is delivering similar performance to ad-lib concentrate feeding. Daily liveweight gains (LWG) of an extra 100 grams is being achieved when compared to grass, which equates to 4 kgs over a 40 day finishing period.
As per best practice, a source of digestible fibre is made available to the lambs in the form of soya hulls or beet pulp, at a rate of 100/150 grams per head/day.
Finishing lambs on Redstart also allows grass fields to be closed off for the in-lamb ewes. Including brassicas in the system works well in Williams reseeding program. Redstart is sown in fields were grass production is falling and this field is then reseeded into grass the following spring. When reseeding, William picks the highest performing varieties from the Teagasc Pasture Profit Index which over the last number of years has included AberGain and AberChoice.