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Farmers Guardian – Easy care is the way forward at Buccleuch

Easy care is the way forward at Buccleuch
Livestock – FG 11 January, 2008

New Zealand sheep breeding technology has combined with easy care sheep management in the Scottish borders to market breeding stock and to play a key part in an integrated programme supplying new season lamb to a major UK retailer. NEIL RYDER found out more on a visit to Selkirk.
When a Scottish-based farming company started looking at moving toward an easy care sheep system there was little thought of an international link-up geared to supplying a major retailer with new season lamb 52 weeks of the year.

The next stage for Buccleuch is the introduction of Primera tups for use on the Highlander cross dams. Primera are also being tried experimentally on 40-50 Charollais ewes to see if there is potential for exploiting the easy lambing characteristic of the Charollais and to enhance the carcase quality of the finished lambs.

At Buccleuch the Primera is being used on Highlander ewe lambs, which will then be put back to the Highlander next year to produce females as breeding stock. Meanwhile, putting cross bred breeding ewes back to the Highlander will lead to upgrading to a pure commercial Highlander flock.
Under the revised system ewes are housed from February as before, but, as long as conditions allow, are turned out to lamb with as little assistance as possible.

Mr Doig said: “M&S policy is to have new season lamb on their shelves 52 weeks of the year, but it is clear that this could not be achieved from British lamb alone. Their team talked to New Zealand producers and liked the product from the Primera tup on the Highlander dam.

The Primera is a terminal meat sire based on Suffolk, Poll Dorset, and Australian White Suffolk bloodlines.
“They also found that their requirement of some 350,000 lambs over a six month period could be supplied by about 100 New Zealand farmers. The aim is to match this for the other six months from UK farmers using the same breeding system to give them a consistent product
“In New Zealand the explosion in dairying on the lower ground has tended to push sheep production more and more on to the higher ground where conditions can be similar to areas such as the Scottish Borders and Cumbria’s Lake District.

“New Zealand systems have for a long time naturally selected for ease of management. This is taken further by some farmers, including the Rissington nucleus flocks, which operate completely commercial un-shepherded lambing systems and rely on DNA parentage testing to identify sire and dam for selection purposes.

“In spite of this the main Highlander nucleus flock of 3,500 ewes achieved 177 per cent lambing last year. This type of system would not transfer easily to the UK as it stands, but does mean New Zealand breeding is well matched to UK easy care systems.
“The only other key difference is that in New Zealand sheep are fed grass only, whereas in the UK some additional feeding, including concentrates, is widely used.

Farmers Guardian – Easy care is the way forward at Buccleuch

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