How a sheep farm aims to reach 1000 kg / ha with a continental herd

A herd of self-replacing terminal bulls is now aiming for 1000 kg liveweight / ha after increasing yield by 27% in three years.

Lamb production has increased from 517.85 kg / ha to 662.61 kg / ha since 2017 at Greenfield Farm, High Etherley, County Durham. At the same time, feed purchase costs have been reduced by £ 6.26 per lamb sold.

The farm achieved this by selecting replacements using herd performance data to balance milk, fertility and carcass quality.

Meanwhile, a major reseeding program allowed the herd to expand as pasture productivity improved.

See also: Texel tup breeder works towards a forage only system

Green farm

  • 755 breeding females, including 250 sheep and 245 gimmers
  • Beltex, Blue Texel, Charollais-Beltex, Charollais and Suffolk bulls
  • All the lambs ended up deadweight in Dunbia
  • 62 ha (153 acre) fenced farm
  • Indoor lamb herd
  • 700 mm of average precipitation per year

History of the farm

The herd has evolved several times since Jayne Brown restocked the family farm in 2006 and purchased 140 Broken Mouth Swaledales and a few Bluefaced Leicester tups.

She has experimented with breeding Swaledale, Cheviot, Lonk, Blackface, Derbyshire Gritstone and Lleyn sheep with Bluefaced Leicester rams. A suckling herd of 35 heads has been created, but the farm has been exclusively sheep since 2018.

Gimmer lamb replacements have been selected from terminal bull lambs from various Mule crosses and some Lleyns have been tried. The herd is now mainly at least three-quarters continental.

In 2017, 371 ewes produced 627 lambs. Last year, 562 ewes produced 955 lambs.

Now a breeder with her partner Paul Richardson and with the help of her daughter Jayne, Ms. Brown raises replacement lambs and premium lambs with terminal sires.

A teaser is used to lamb the herd in three blocks of two cycles. Due to the limited space in the sheds, the lambs from the main herd from mid-February, the short lamb from the beginning of March and the pig lamb from the end of March.

Recent progress

Taking blood samples and checking forage quality before lambing gave the farm the confidence to rely more on locally grown forage and reduced concentrate feeding by 70% at the end of gestation. mature ewes for the 2021 lambing.

Bulldog maps and clips help lambers manage jobs and reduce mortality © MAG / Michael Priestley

Sheep feed (which includes all the nutrients purchased – minerals, lamb replacement milk, sheep concentrates, creep and Himalayan rock salt) cost £ 19.21 per lamb sold in 2017, but fell at £ 12.95 per lamb sold in 2020. This included milk replacer for 70 pet lambs.

Much of the cost was saved by producing 10.5-11 Metabolizable Energy (ME) silages, cutting the grass before the seed head started to come out completely.

The fields are closed from the end of April after the first pasture. The silage in large bales is then taken in June and July after five weeks of growth.

To catch the grass in the right place, the farm has its own silage equipment, rather than relying on contractors.

This reduced the dry matter from 10% to 30% on average, adding 0.5 MJ ME / kg silage and 4-5% D-value.

They have also reseeded about 48 ha of the farm’s 62 ha under the leadership of Ms Brown’s father, Ray, since 2011, with the rest to be done this year.

The soil is seeded with Italian ryegrass for about three years, followed by a longer expanse of perennial ryegrass, timothy, and clover.

However, this increased the costs of seeds, lime and fertilizer, which went from £ 6.88 per lamb to £ 11.11 per lamb.

7 key factors to obtain a good return

Good lambing routines

  • Each pen is cleaned, swept and limed between each ewe, which has reduced the dosage of oral antibiotics by approximately 75% over the past three years.
  • All messages are written on a whiteboard that helps the three lambs communicate with management and ensures that all lambs receive 50ml / kg of colostrum in the first two hours and 200ml / kg in the first 24 hours, and their navels are completely dry
  • Each pen has a bulldog clip on the top rail and it is only when the cleaner has been found and put away that the clip is placed upwards
  • A card is then placed in the clip with the date of birth and any notes about the health of the lamb or ewe written on it
  • Colored velcro is wrapped around pen doors to indicate different management requirements, such as “colostrum need”, “welcome”, “triplets” or “lameness”

Monitor weights at eight weeks

  • Border Software helps the team measure weight over eight weeks to assess which lines and breeds are reproducing well, as well as to monitor inbreeding
  • Milky ewes are restrained and milky ewe gimmers are considered for breeding. Two lamb prints are often sold to ewes at weaning 12-14 weeks, no creep
  • The detailed paper recording started in 2012 and the software package in 2016

Apply strict culling

  • Slow sheep, and any sheep with a tight pelvis, are slaughtered are slaughtered, although assisted lambings are expected

  • Single breeders repeated (two or three times) are eliminated and any retained offspring are also eliminated if they show the same trait.
  • Prolapse is a slaughter violation, as is persistent lameness

Know how lambs are raised

  • Lambs ear tags are attached by cable with a colorful tag signifying sire’s breed to help assess lamb performance and select gimmers. For example, one might expect a Suffolk twin lamb to gain 400g / day, while a Beltex would gain well 300g / day.

Analyze the weight and number of eggs

  • Daily bodyweight gains are checked every three weeks and once or twice a week once the lambs are weaned and approach sales weight
  • The faecal egg count (FEC) and weight gain data throughout the summer are used to indicate whether deworming is needed. Lower weight gains may indicate the need for weaning, deworming, or crawling if needed. This data is combined with data from the fecal egg count to time the soaking of nematodiruses.

Do not adhere to the disease

  • Purebred tups were used to minimize the risk of disease purchased. Only four bulls have been purchased since 2017.
  • Rams are normally picked up from the breeder’s farm, then quarantined for four weeks with orange or purple drops and blood tests for iceberg disease
  • The herd will be completely closed this year and will rely on artificial insemination and house bred bulls.

Invest in herd health

  • All deaths are sent to Farm Portems in Hamsterley for diagnosis
  • The ewes are vaccinated against foot rot, toxoplasmosis, enzootic abortion, pasteurella and clostridia as part of a herd health program with the vets of the castle
  • A comprehensive feed mineral analysis was performed this year
  • Ewes are given a mineral bolus during pre-assembly and rearing and have access to Himalayan rock salt

Future

Planning permission has been granted for two barns, which will allow lambing of 900 ewes indoors by 2023. If they grow 170% to 43 kg, that will be equivalent to 1061 kg / ha.

More effort will be put into rotating grazing and subdividing pastures to maximize grass use. The sheds will allow more flexibility and will allow them to rest the grass in winter.

Running an all-sheep farm will present a challenge when it comes to parasite control, but the farm will continue to use clean pastures, rotations, and follow the principles of Sustainable Parasite Control in Sheep (Scops) to manage this.

“The farm increased the number of kilos sold per hectare and we also increased the value of each kilo with carcass grades,” says Brown.

“This system suits our personalities. We practically live in the lambing shed anyway, so we might as well maximize production if we’re that practical.


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