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Het effect van het gebruik van hoge index rammen (in dit geval Drinkstone Supersire 2005) is goed te zien uit onderstaand staatje op de site van Highfield House Farm. Deze fokker heeftvanaf het seizoen 2006 een hoog indexram ingezet. De indexen schieten meteen omhoog:
In 2006 we decided to start recording our flock for the first time.
At this time we only had one ram which we purchased from Stafford in 2004 and although he was produced really good lambs they didn’t seem to have the confirmation that we required. This was also shown in the first years figures we got from the 21 week scans.
Therefore in 2007 it was decided that we would use a high figured ram to see what a difference it would make. The Drinkstone ram we used has certainly produced figures to die for. Put on to my large shearling ewes he has produced some quick growing, well confirmed lambs that we are sure will be a great asset to our flock.
| 8wk wt
| Scn wt
In 2008 we will hope to further increase this by using another Drinkstone ram plus one yet to be purchased.
THERE was a top price of 32,000gns, a 70 per cent clearance and an average of £2,407 for 159 sold at the first Suffolk Sheep Society sale of the season held at Ingliston, Edinburgh.
Leading the trade was a ram lamb from the Solwaybank flock owned by 28-year-old Iain Barbour, Annan, Dumfries and Galloway. The ram is by Baileys Bugatti, out of a ewe by Glenhead Grandmaster and grand dam by Glenisla Grimaldi.
The buyer was Tom and Jeff Bailey, Co. Meath, Eire, and late in the sale Iain Barbour returned the compliment paying 5,000gns for a Baileys ram lamb by Rhaeadr Rossi.
Mr Barbour led a string of new and younger vendors, including Gary Beacom, Kesh, Co. Fermanagh, who achieved 15,000gns for his ram by Shannagh Shergar, out of a dam by Strathisla Kingsway, jointly purchased by Brydon Nicholson, Innfield, Shetland and Robbie Wilson, Turiff, Aberdeenshire.
Selling three rams each Mr Barbour and Mr Beacom netted the highest averages, of £11,585 and £6,020, respectively, while Robbie Wilson nipped in a close third, averaging £5,973 on a powerful team of ten.
Mr Wilson sold two of the six five-figure rams sold. Firstly the show champion – this year’s Royal Highland breed champion, a ram lamb by Strathisla Speed, out of a ewe by Glenho Gurkha with grand dam by Glenisla Godfather.
The hammer fell at 25,000gns to Alfred and Norman Robinson, Benrafton, Co. Down. Mr Wilson sold a second Speed lamb, this time out of a dam by Bawnogue Blazing Star for 10,000gns to G. Stuart, Birness, and R.H. Black, Collesie, Fife.
Fourth on the averages and third highest price – 20,000gns – went to Jimmy Douglas, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, when Belgian buyer Claude Vanwijnsberghe, Waregem, used a strong euro to secure Douglas’ first in ring, a ram by Cairness Renovator, out of a dam by Stockton Stardust and grand dam by Fordafourie Lochnagar.
With the largest consignment of the day Mr Douglas averaged £4,625 on 11 sold, including two selling at 7,000gns.
The sale’s sixth five-figure ram selling at 11,000gns was from Myfyr Evans, Llanrhaeadr, Denbighshire.
His consignment of five also picked up the red ribbon in the pen of three class.
The 11,000gns ram was by Thurston Calzaghe and out of a dam by Plasllewelyn Prince of Wales and sold to father and daughter, Chris and Sally Holmes, Broadway, Worcestershire.
Also out of the pen of three came another ram by Calzaghe, realising 5,000gns selling to J.K. Teare, Isle of Man, while Hazel Martindale of Landale, Lockerbie, took home Evans’ fourth prize ram lamb, by Baileys Blockbuster for 8,000gns.
The pace of the sale was set when two lots from the first consignment in the ring from C.A. Proctor and Co, Turriff, Aberdeenshire, took 5,000gns each. This was for a Strathisla Schumacher lamb purchased by Herbert Stanley, Bawnogue, Co. Laois and a lamb by Deveronside Whistleblower bought by S. and M. Liggett, Carony, Co. Tyrone.
A second prize ram lamb from George Stuart’s Birness flock, Ellon, Aberdeenshire made 7,000gns. The ram by Castlewellan Eyecatcher was snapped up by John Campbell, Thrunton, Northumberland.
Auctioneers: United Auctions.
Click on images
Winning pen of three
20000gns ram from J Douglas
Speaking via a phone link at the Royal Show, Jon Hickford, of Lincoln University, New Zealand, told a briefing that by selecting for footrot tolerance it was possible to greatly reduce the time and money spent controlling and treating foot-rot, particularly vaccination and foot bathing chemical costs.
“New Zealand’s experience suggests savings of about £2 a head could be made. The New Zealand wool industry is predicted to make savings of about NZ$24m (£9m) in the next 10 years.”
Dr Hickford said the cold survival gene marker could identify sheep with vigour and those with the ability to thrive from birth. “Lambs are ranked on three scores – A, B and C – and the idea is to avoid breeding from animals scoring C, rather than forcefully breeding towards sheep scoring A and B.
“A sheep with a C score is four times more likely to die of cold at birth than one scoring A,” he said. The test is linked to brown fat mobilisation at birth, as lambs who mobilise brown fat quicker are faster to get up and suck and thus have increased survival rates.
Suffolk Sheep Society commercial director Robyn Hulme said it was important for the breed to be at the forefront of such developments and ensure commercial ram buyers were given the chance to buy rams best equipped for their situations.
But MLC sheep and beef scientist Duncan Pullar said that, while the tests looked promising, it was essential to validate them under UK conditions before they were roled out on a wider scale.
For Stuart Davies in Lower Chapel, Brecon, sheep farming isn’t so much a business as his passion. Having spent many years as a contract shearer running a small flock in his spare time, Stuart has worked hard to get a foot on the farming ladder and is determined to make a success of his now flourishing enterprise.
The opportunity to take on the tenancy at Vale Farm was one too good to miss, remarks Stuart, but with it came a number of challenges, not least the trial of farming without a single farm payment or other subsidy payment.”It has certainly focused my mind on making the business work financially as well as keep a tight check on costs.”
Stuart aims to be able to sell stock every month of the year to keep cash rolling through the business, so has arranged lambing into batches which both make it easier to lamb ewes with limited labour and ensure finished lambs are available for sale from April through to January. “We have 100 suckler cows and begin selling suckled calves from January onwards.”And, while some farmers may prefer to take lambs to heavier weights Stuart prefers to market early season lambs slighty lighter to gain the best return. “Selling 34-35kg lambs might not suit everyone, but when selling them earlier in the season they made up to £70 a head and they wouldn’t have made that later, despite being heavier. And I don’t have the costs of taking them to the heavier weight.”
On the breeding side of things Stuart is keen to make his mark and runs a flock of pedigree Suffolks alongside his 1800 commercial ewes which are largely Welsh Mountain and crossbreds. “The Suffolks aren’t the mainstay of the business, but provide an interest for me away from the commercial flock.”
With limited cash to call on he has made the strategic decision to buy older Welsh Mountain and crossbred ewes capable of breeding for another two or three seasons rather than buying shearlings. “These ewes don’t cost so much, have lambed before so should be good mothers and crucially, the cull price we receive for them after two or three years is close to the price we pay for them originally, so depreciation is dramatically reduced.”Admittedly this could compromise the health status of the flock and buying in sheep always risks buying in disease, explains Stuart. “But all bought-in ewes are treated for scab and worms and isolated before being mixed with the main flock at lambing.”
And with health an increasing concern, he is also keen to make use of advancing technologies and breeding techniques to reduce problems. “Regular drenching isn’t something we can justify anymore, so faecal egg counting will be used to target treatments at stock needing it. A hard culling strategy is being implemented and sheep which are repeatedly lame or have lambs which need suckling aren’t being retained.Grassland management has also come to the fore of Stuart’s mind as feed prices have escalated. So the aim is to have grass ready for ewes and lambs to be turned out on to by using root crops for outwintering and housing ewes before lambing. “Feed use has halved this winter and it should be cut further next year. Grass is regularly topped to maintain quality and clover is being increased in swards to boost productivity and cut fertiliser use.”And with industry increasingly short of visionaries and leaders, Stuart is already stepping up to the challenge here, too. As chairman of Wales and Borders region of the Suffolk Sheep Society Stuart has definite views on the way the breed needs to move and is now in a position to influence the direction it takes.
Alongside this Stuart is heavily involved in Young Farmers and often gives up his time to help members understand the finer points of stock judging through training events. The farm also hosts a number of shearing training courses, something Stuart has benefitted from himself in the past and is keen for others to succeed at. As a member of a local discussion group Stuart is regularly playing host to farm visits and attends meetings with the aim of always bringing back at least one idea he could try at home.
Stong lamb entry at Ashford Market
A good entry of lambs for Ashford Market’s first Friday sale of the season saw several pens of prime lambs on offer as well as strong store prices. The best stores went at about £38 a head, while medium sorts went to £34 to £36. A pen of smart Texel lambs topped store trade at £41.50 from Hugh and Pauline Skinner while Suffolk x Mules made £40.90 from I T Henshaw and Suffolk x Romney’s were up to £38.80 a head from M J Ashworth. Texel crosses topped at £38 from A A Palmar and Son.
Finished lambs topped at £49.90 from A A Palmar and Son, £49.50 from J M and H J Stuart-Smith, £47.20 from M J Ashworth, £46.80 from Peter Wickham and £46.50 from J E C Farrant (Hobbs Parker).
A seventy per cent clearance and average of £2,407 on 159 sold, sealed the success of the first Suffolk Sheep sale of the season, despite Bluetongue movement restrictions which barred many of vendors and buyers in protection zones from participating.
Iain Barbour with the top price 32,000gns – selling shares to Tom Bailey, Co Meath and Judith Barbour
Robbie Wilson, Strathisla, Aberdeenshire, dominated proceedings selling two of the six five figure rams sold: Namely his show champion – this year’s Royal Highland breed champion, a ram lamb by Strathisla Speed, out of a ewe by Glenho Gurkha with grand dam by Glenisla Godfather. This netted him 25,000gns paid by Alfred and Norman Robinson, of Benrafton, Co Down, NI. Wilson sold a second Speed lamb, this time out of a dam by Bawnogue Blazing Star and part of the fifth prize pen, for 10,000gns to G Stuart, Birness, and R H Black, Collesie, Fife.
The pace of the sale was set when two lots from the first consignment in the ring, C A Proctor and Co of Conveth, Aberdeenshire, took 5,000gns each. This was for a Strathisla Schumacher lamb purchased by Herbert Stanley, Bawnogue, Co Laois and a lamb by Deveronside Whistleblower bought by S and M Liggett, Carony, Co Tyrone, NI.
Iain Barbour with the top price 32,000gns selling shares
Iain led a string of victorious new and younger vendors, including Gary Beacom, of Lakeview, Co Fermanagh, NI, who achieved 15,000gns for his ram by Shannagh Shergar, out of a dam by Strathisla Kingsway, jointly purchased by Brydon Nicholson, Innfield, Shetland and Robbie Wilson. Also Northern Ireland’s Mark Priestley of Limestone notched up 7,500gns for a lamb by Cairness Destiny, out of a ewe by Castlewellan Tonto. The ram was supreme champion at Saintfield Show and East Down Male of the year, NI.
Selling three rams each Barbour and Beacom netted the highest averages, of £11,585 and £6,020, respectively, while Robbie nipped in a close third averaging £5,973 on a powerful team of ten.
Fourth on the averages and third highest price – 20,000gns – went to Jimmy Douglas, of Cairness when Belgium buyer Claude Vanwijnsberghe, of Meierie used a strong euro to secure Douglas’ first in ring, a ram by Cairness Renovator, out of a dam by Stockton Stardust and grand dam by Fordafourie Lochnagar. With the largest consignment of the day, Douglas averaged £4,625 on 11 sold, including two selling at 7,000gns: A Muiresk King of Diamonds lamb out of his fourth prize pen went to County Turf, Scunthorpe, with a half share retained by Douglas; and a lamb by Whitestone Warrior, jointly purchased by Harry Sleigh, Wells, Aberdeenshire and Gordon Troup, Whitestone, Aberdeenshire. Cairnesses seventh prize lamb yielded 2,000gns to Gray and Sons of Langside, Lanark.
The sale’s sixth five figure ram went to Myfyr Evans, Rhaeadr, North Wales – his consignment of nine had already picked up red colours in the pen of three – attracting significant attention. It was father and daughter, Chris and Sally Holmes, Rookery, Worcestershire who bid 11,000gns for a ram by Thurston Calzaghe out of a dam by Plasllewelyn Prince of Wales. Also out of the pen of three came another ram by Calzaghe realising 5000gns ram to J K Teare, Isle of Man, while Hazel Martindale of Landale, Lockerbie, took home Evans’ fourth prize ram lamb, by Baileys Blockbuster for 8,000gns..
Reserve champion and first prize in the MLC class went to William and Stephanie Tait’s, of Co Tyrone, NI, Burnview. The ram by Baileys Invincible was another travelling to Worcestershire, purchased by rshire, purchased by Paul Fletcher of Callow who paid 3,000gns. The Taits top price was a joint purchase of 4,000gns shared by R & R Scott, Drumpark, Banffshire and Gordon Mackie, Drimmie. The couple’s reserve pen of three including two Invincible rams and one by Burnview Beamer, yielded 2,500gns, 1,800 and 1000gns.
Other prize cards that made an impact in the sale ring were: Second prize ram lamb and reserve northern champion George Stuart’s, Birness ram by Castlewellan Eyecatcher was snapped up by John Campbell, Thrunton, Northumberland, for 7,000gns, while sixth prize from K & L Mair, Deveronside, Aberdeenshire, stayed in the county going to J Young of Muirton, for 5,000gns. Eighth prize ram lamb, presented by James Young, sold to Lilburn Estates for 5,000gns; County Turf, Scunthorpe, ninth prize lamb, 4,000gns to Helen Goldie, Harpercroft, Ayrshire.
Show judge, Viv Samuels of Herefordshire, praised classes of up to 47 entries: “It has been good to judge modern carcases which are well fleshed – what today’s meat trade needs, while retaining breed characteristics.”
Auctioneer, David Leggatt of UA commented: “Numbers forward were affected by Bluetongue; nevertheless we are very pleased to achieve a 70% sale rate, against a backdrop of healthy bidding. Also it was good to see so many youngsters getting their first taste of real success.
Society Chairman, Michael Weaver, adds: “Considering the uncertainty of bluetongue zones we are very pleased, it has been a more level trade without the major peaks – that would be a good thing for breeders as a whole. Despite the restrictions only ten less lambs were sold than last year and overall average was on a par with 2006 and back a bit on 2007. What was really good was to see so many youngsters enjoying success.”
I Barbour, Solwaybank, £11,585 3; G Beacom, Lakeview, NI, £6,020 (3); R H Wilson, Strathisla, £5,973 (9); J G Douglas, £4,625 (11); Myfyr Evans, Rhaeadr, £3,974 (9); K & L Mair, Deveronside, Aberdeenshire, £2,538 (4); Proctor & Co, Conveth, £2,336 (8); S & W Tait, Burnview, £2,293 (6); T & J Bailey, Baileys, Co Meath, Eire, £2,152 (4); J H Stewart, Castlewellan, Co Down, £1,720 (5); Angus O Wilson, Glenhead, Roxburghshire, £1,645 (6); George Stuart, Birness, Aberdeenshire, £1,516 (8); J H Christie, Westcarse, Stirlingshire, £1,418 (6); J & A Howie, Hillend, Lanarkshire, £1,391 (4); Gordon Mackie, Drimme, Angus, £1,050, (4).
Ram Lamb (MLC) 1, S & W Tait, Burnview, NI; 2, K & L Mair, Deveronside; 3, Thomas Darling, Howeburn, Berwickshire; 4, J M Stewart, Gransha, Co Down, NI; 5, J & A Howie, Hillend, Lanarkshire; 6, P Machray, Middlemuir, Aberdeenshire.
Open Ram Lamb 1, R H Wilson, Strathisla, 2, G L Stuart, Birness, 3, W & S Tait, Burnview; 4, Myfyr Evans, Rhaeadr; 5 T & J Bailey, Baileys; 6 K & L Mair, Deveronside; 7, J G Douglas, Cairness; 8 James Young, Muirton, 9 County Turf, Hazeltree; 10, H
P Sleigh & Son, Wells.
Pen of three 1, Myfyr Evans; 2, S & W Tait; 3, G Mackie, Drimme, Angus; 4, J G Douglas; 5, R H Wilson; 6, G L Stuart, Birness.
Champion R H Wilson; Reserve, S & W Tait.
Northern champion R H Wilson, Reserve, G L Stuart.
With bluetongue restrictions making it hard for Stockton-on-Teme Suffolk breeder John Sinnett to attend any society sales this year his decision to hold an on-farm sale last weekend proved right with a top of 1600gns achieved twice.
First at this price was the third lot into the ring which sold to Caroline Rootes, Castle Douglas, for her Trolliloes flock.
Taking the second top priced lamb was Jimmy Douglas, Cairness, when he bid for and claimed the 13th lot under auctioneer David Leggat’s gavel.
Other leading prices included a brace of 750gns bids, one from Chris Holmes, buying for his Rookery flock, and another from Messrs Thorne, when adding a stock sire to their Upperholme flock, Herefordshire.
In at 650gns were J A D and P M Owens of Leominster when buying the first of two purchases on the day for their 20 ewe flock.
Overall Mr Sinnett was pleased with the sale having sold 17 ram lambs to average £652.85. Speaking to Farmers Weekly he said with the sheep industry reeling from a number of shocks in recent years and costs on the increase the trade represented what he expected.
Youngstock – FG | 8 February, 2008
Teenager Tom Cox has surpassed all expectations for his young age. His tenacious dedication to his pedigree flock and unwavering commitment to the family farm is something to aspire to. Angela Calvert reports.
MANY pedigree livestock breeders strive for a lifetime to attain what teenager Tom Cox has achieved in just a few short years.
In 2006, Tom, then aged just 18 years, was named the winner of the Bristol Gold Cup, the Suffolk Sheep Society’s National Flock Competition, with his Tomcroft flock.
The young farmer beat off stiff opposition from all over the UK and Ireland to gain the national accolade and is also enjoying tremendous success in the show and sale ring.
Yet despite his impressive professional triumphs, Tom still remains unassuming.
“I did not expect to win and it came as a complete surprise, but we were absolutely delighted,” says Tom.
The Cox family farm at Marston in Staffordshire where the main business enterprise is in dairying. Determined to take an active role, Tom, at the age of 12, was keen to establish his own pedigree flock of sheep and acquired six in-lamb Suffolk ewes for Christmas 2000, from Robin Hulme’s Crosemanor flock.
For the first two breeding seasons Tom used AI on the ewes with the sire Burness Aqua, and expanded the flock by retaining ewe lambs.
The MLC Signet recording scheme is used and a strict selection policy to ensure the genetics of the flock are constantly improving.
However, Tom feels that a turning point for the flock came in 2003, with the purchase, jointly with Clive Norbury, of the ram Muiresk Adrenaline, whose influence on the flock has been enormous.
“Adrenaline’s daughters have now formed the basis for the flock and as well having good conformation, have a certain presence and style, which I think is partly responsible for winning the national flock competition and has given us success in the show ring,” he reflects.
In the past three show seasons, Tom has taken champion or reserve at every show entered, including Shropshire and West Midland, Newport and at Staffordshire County for three years running.
On the sales circuit, the sale of his first ram lamb, in 2005, broke the £1,000 barrier at the National Show and Sale of Suffolks at Shrewsbury Market.
Although ewe lambs have been retained to build up numbers, there have also been some purchases of ewes from several of the leading Suffolk flocks, to improve genetic traits. AI from high-class rams has also been used to introduce new bloodlines.
In 2006 Tom used a homebred ram lamb, Tomcroft Persuader, on a number of ewes. He is by Castlewellen Nutcracker out of a Muiresk Adrenaline ewe and has been used for his fast growth rate, high muscle score of 42.2mm and low fat score.
The resulting progeny have been outstanding and Tom believes they will lead the flock to even more success.
“We are extremely pleased with Persuader’s first crop. He obviously crosses well with the Adrenaline ewes, which is good for the future improvement of the flock,” he says.
Last year, his flock was the winner of the Midland and Eastern Area flock competition, with Persuader taking the award for best stock ram. A share in Persuader has now been sold to Ken Powell of the Beechcourt flock.
In spite of the difficulties encountered by all livestock farmers during last year’s sale season, Tom was delighted with his results and the high demand for his stock, with the highlight being the sale of a ram lamb for 4,000 guineas.
“In spite of increasing popularity of continental rams in recent years I am still finding a strong demand for Suffolks. I am selling to both pedigree and commercial breeders,” he explains.
“The aim is to produce high index lambs, with good conformation, good muscle depth and little fat.”
Lambing takes place in January and some AI is used to ensure a tight lambing period. Ewes are left outside as long as possible, before coming inside to lamb. They are given minimal hard feed and are turned out again, with lambs, in February.
Any ewes, which have a bad lambing, show poor mothering instinct or have any other problems, are culled to improve the ‘easy care’ management of the flock.
Ewe numbers have now reached about 60, which Tom feels is probably the optimum number to fit in with the rest of the farm’s activities, as any further increase would start to take grass away from the cows. So now efforts will concentrate on further maximising the flock’s potential.
The Cox family bought Manor Farm in 1971, when it was just a 138-acre holding, to expand and develop their then 30-head Steve Acre herd of pedigree Holstein Friesian dairy cattle.
The expansion has been rapid and the farm now extends to 700 acres. The dairy herd stands at 350 cows, which are producing 11,000 litres at 4 per cent fat and 3.35 per cent protein. The milk is sold to Muller at Market Drayton.
The herd has been the highest yielding herd in Staffordshire, 18 times since 1978, and has also won numerous inspection awards at county level.
About 80 per cent of the cows are put to Holstein bulls to breed replacement and additional heifers and the remainder put to a Limousin bull. All calves are reared on farm, with the beef ones being sold as stores, resulting in around 800 head of cattle on the farm at any one time.
Although evidently enthusiastic about his sheep, Tom is committed to the dairy herd and rises at 3.30am to milk them and whenever possible, likes to do the feeding of the cows himself.
The current parlour was installed in 1996 and was only intended for 170 cows. Plans are underway for a new 40-point internal rotary parlour, which will allow 150-200 cows to be milked per hour and will enable the herd to expand even further. It’s hoped the new parlour should be operational by the end of next year.
“I see a good future in dairy farming and would like to significantly increase cow numbers. The new parlour should allow us to do that and make management so much easier,” he says.
Tom says he did not ever consider a career other than farming and after completing a National Diploma in Agriculture at Robaston College now intends to focus on the family farm. Working full-time alongside him are his sister, Rachael and girlfrie
nd, Lucy Moss, who share his commitment to farming.
Tom’s father, Stephen has embraced the enthusiasm of his three young workers. He says, “Although times have been difficult for some, there have been some real opportunities in farming over the last ten years and it has certainly given us the opportunity to expand.
I think the way forward is family farms, where everyone works together with the aim of moving ahead.
“If it was just me, I may feel differently, but these three young people are all so keen, I want to support them and we are all very optimistic for the future.”
Unsurprisingly proud of Tom’s achievements, Stephen believes the reason for his son’s success lies in his ‘attention to detail and good eye for sheep’.
It’s almost easy to forget that despite his sale success, winning stock and increasingly active role on the farm, Tom is still only 19 years old.
When asked the secrets to his own success, Tom’s answer is typically more modest to that of his fathers.
‘I was very lucky that I started out with some good stock and have built on that and I enjoy what I do.”
FORWARD planning and a well executed, tried and tested ‘system’ are the key to easing management and maximising lamb sales on a 3,000 ewe Shropshire Farm.
Nick Davies is head shepherd at Brakes Farm, near Ludlow, and his enterprise is aiming for least 1.7 lambs sold per ewe – a goal significantly ahead of the average being achieved by the top third units in Eblex Business Pointers.
He sells his prime lambs through a retailer producer group – a marketing decision which has not seen him fall below £40 per head, even in this difficult season.
Key to the farm’s performance is ewe management pre- and post-lambing and the production of good-sized, vigorous lambs, which are matched to ewes’ individual milking potential by meticulous attention to fostering, where necessary.
And skimping on input costs is not necessarily the way to achieve either vigorous lambs or a milky ewe, says Mr Davies.
The top third performing flocks in Business Pointers have total variable and replacement costs a shade over £30 – not markedly different to the overall average or bottom third, and concentrates, feed and forage come out at £12.30.
At Brakes Farm, total variables come to £35.25, within which feed and forage account for £13.30. But it is fixed costs that really set the top and bottom thirds apart. With close attention to detail at lambing time, Mr Davies needs to take on around five to six casual staff. But with no unpaid family labour costs, Mr Davies’s total labour cost per ewe comes out at £15 – well below the £23 total labour costs of top third performing enterprises.
The flock is split into early and late lambers. This year, the first bunch comprised 900 ewes, which worked well. “It puts a lot of pressure on the staff, but the grass is there and the main lambing has been so much better, so we’ll go for 900 again next year,” he said.
The early bunch lambed in the first two weeks of March, while the rest of the flock began on April 1 – most of them expected to lamb within three weeks.
Around 75 per cent of the flock were put to Suffolk rams and 25 per cent to high index Texels. However, the percentage of ewes put to a Texel may increase over the next few years as Mr Davies feels these lambs are better suited to the farm.
The lambing ewes are kept in smaller bunches – bays within the lambing shed with a maximum of 80 ewes in each. Lamb size has benefited, but a new feed, with 10 per cent more protein availability than before, has also had an effect.
All the ewes are scanned and those in the second bunch carrying triplets are winter shorn and housed in January and fed 1.2kg of nuts a day.
An additional 160-170 ewes with a condition score below 3.5 are also winter shorn and, regardless of how many lambs they are carrying, are fed and housed from the beginning of January. For six weeks before lambing, ewes carrying twins get 1.0kg of nuts daily, outside.
All the housed ewes are given hay for the first 10 days and then a mix of hay and barley straw after that.
Brakes Farm ranges from 500ft to 1,000ft and, after scanning, singles carriers are put on the higher ground and are supplemented with up to 0.3kg of nuts a day for four weeks before lambing and are eventually moved downhill to lamb outside in a specially-designed yard.
The improvement in lambing, however, is also due to the better quality of ewes. All barren ewes are culled, but shearlings are given ‘a second chance’.
Ewes are also culled for bad feet, low udders, big teats, only milking on one side, mastitis and if they prolapse or fail to show a maternal instinct.
No home-bred lambs are kept as replacements – all are reared for meat except 600 Suffolk cross ewe lambs sold for breeding. Replacements are brought from the same two farms every year to avoid compromising disease status.
The net result of keeping a tight control over management at Brakes Farm is a gross margin per ewe of £29.75, which is just above the average.
However, that margin looks set to improve further if Mr Davies achieves his target of 1.7 lambs per ewe.
Suffolk breeders enjoyed another strong trade at their annual fixture at Shrewsbury last Saturday, when the top price was once again a five figure deal for a Strathisla entry from Robbie Wilson.However, this one was nearly one fifth of his Edinburgh topping bid of 48,000gns, with the hammer dropping at 10,000gns. Buyers for this lamb, a Glenho Gurka son out of a ewe by Glenhead the McCoy which had stood champion in the pre-sale show under judge John Elliot, were the Stuart family, Davishill.
Next top call was a 6000gns bid for a lamb from another leading Aberdeenshire breeder, Jimmy Douglas, Cairness.
His pen topper was the reserve champion from the show, a Glenhead Grandmaster son out of a dam by Stockton Sky’s The Limit and with an index of 2.8 and sold to D Cranstone. His mother was top priced ewe lamb at Geoff Biddulph’s Pexhill production sale in 2005.
Next among the high prices was the highest indexed Suffolk lamb in the UK this year, a Drinkstone sheep with a bumper index of 6.16 from Arnold and John Park. Sired by Ortum Supersire, this entry was bought by Lilburn Estate Farming Partnership, for 5200gns who last year bought the Walton family’s Roseden flock.
Another Strathisla lamb followed closely on this one’s heel’s, selling for 5000gns to G and J Soulsby, Cumbria. Their choice was sired by Strathisla Schumacher, sire of Mr Wilson’s Edinburgh topper and bred from a ewe by Glenhead McCoy.
In at 4500gns for a full brother to the champion were the Gould’s, Buxton, Derbyshire. This lamb had taken third prize in the sale’s newly established gigot class for Mr Wilson.
Also changing hands at this money was the top priced Perrinpit lamb from Roger and Michael Weaver. Buyer this time was Judith Barbour, Ewebank who took home this one by Solwaybank Ranger, bred in her brother Ian’s flock.
Carrying an index of 4.42, the next highest bid of 4000gns came for Tom Cox’s leading entry from his Tomcroft flock. This lamb is by homebred sire Tomcroft Persuader and out of a homebred dam by Muiresk Adrenaline. He sold to Tom and Charles Harding’s Bentley flock and John Key of Sheffield.
Having been a dominant force at last week’s Edinburgh sale, Irish property developer Tom Bailey made a four figure sale at 3500gns for his leading tup. Buyers on this occaission were Lilburn Estates again, taking home a Rhaeadr Rossi son out of a ewe by Bawnogue Hercules with a below breed average index of 1.04.
Average 149 ram lambs £1037.95 Auctioneers John Swan, Straker Chadwick and Halls.