January 2023

10 February 2023

The beginning of January means the rams were taken out, so we have a compact lambing period. This makes it easier at lambing, and also for the management of the lambs for marketing and treatment timings. The other benefit is the ewes can be moved into larger groups, which means less fields to check and we can hit the forage crops harder. The aim is to rest grass for at least 90 days (ideally longer) over winter. We are grazing stubble turnips, fodder beet, an arable cover crop and winter wheat this year.

The quieter time in January means we can review the performance of the flock, check against our breeding goals and make selections on the breeding stock that we will keep for ourselves and aim to sell in the coming year. The main timing, I focus on, is the eight week weight, as this gives a good indication of  both ewe and lamb performance. I was pleased with our flock performance this year with an average eight week weight of 23kg. Despite the hot dry year, we were also able to keep good lamb growth rates through the summer, thanks to clover leys and a chicory, plantain and clover mix in the arable rotation (which gave us great performance).

I am really pleased with how our ram lambs look this year, I think they are the best we have ever had. Our top Hampshire ram (27Z2202658) has the top index in the breed at the moment and we have used him on our ewes.

I have also been having a look at our breeding goals, and checking I feel they are future proof. The Hampshires (as a terminal sire breed) have a much easier job, with their overall objectives to increase the value of finished lambs, while reducing time on farm and inputs. My breeding goals for the Hampshires are:

  • Easy lambing
  • Lamb vigour
  • Fast growth
  • Increased carcase weight
  • Increased carcase value

The Lleyns have a harder a job, as they are producing both finished lambs and ewes that will be used for breeding in the flock. For me, the maternal ewes need to make the efficiently use resources available to them, be hardy and their lambs need to grow quickly. My breeding objectives for the Lleyns are:

  • Moderate mature size (around 65kg)
  • Prolific
  • Good parasite resistance
  • High lamb survival
  • Good milking ability
  • Fast early lamb growth rate

Not all these work together, but with hard and consistent selection we aim to make progress. I have listed the breeding objectives in the order that I prioritise them.

Later in the month I had the opportunity to appear on the ag watchers podcast thanks to the NSA and the Global Sheep Producers Forum Next Gen program. We talked about UK farming and the challenges and opportunities-

This month we also had Signet on the farm to do their cattle scanning accreditation. We ran a group of steers through to measure the muscle and fat depths, to make sure all the technicians were getting repeatable measurements, find out more about cattle scanning here.  It was good to catch up with the team and hear about the latest in breeding and where research and Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) are heading over the next year.


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