Ed Brant

31st March 2022

 

 

March

Firstly, I would like to thank NSA for such a brilliant opportunity to join the Next Generation Ambassador programme. The first session held in February was excellent, it is a great group of ambassadors which makes me feel very positive about the future of the industry. We saw some great farms and systems, and I learnt a lot from the sessions with Philippa Page from Flock Health Ltd.

So far it has been a month of ups and downs for the flock, as we have moved into spring and look ahead to lambing.

We scanned our 370ish ewes and 40 ewe lambs over the weekend. I was disappointed with our ewes that scanned at 153%, the main driver of this low scan was the high number of empties. Looking through the information, it is a problem across the majority of the groups. After discussion with the vet, this is likely to be either a disease issues or nutrition that we are going to investigate further to avoid the problem next year. The ewe lambs were slightly more pleasing with a scan of 86%. Fertility is such a key driver of flock output and profitability and something I really need to focus to improve.

We are pretty much at the end of our winter forage and all the ewes will be coming off within the week. The ewe lambs and ram lambs have been off their stubble turnips a couple of weeks, which is now being drilled with spring barley.

One of the most exciting updates over the past month, is the release of Signet’s new maternal evaluation, focused on efficient and productive ewes. This evaluation also contains new parasite resistance and carcase quality traits.  

We are now on the countdown to lambing, which I am looking forward to with some caution. I wish a successful lambing to all those that are currently lambing.

April

As I write this, we have nearly finished the first week of lambing and so far, the weather has been a great help. It has been a relatively slow start, but things are starting to pick up now. At scanning it looked like the majority of ewes will lamb in the first cycle, so things are going to get busier. We overwintered the ewes on fodder beet and stubble turnips, trying to get them off grass sooner in the autumn. This has really made a difference to the grass in the spring compared to previous years. We have drilled the fodder beet for next winter and the spring barley that was grown after the beet and stubble turnips looks to have established well.

All the sheep are lambed outside, so the main job at the moment is getting the information for performance recording. We collect a birth weight, ID, date of birth, and dam information (which links to the single sire groups of the ewes). Handling the lambs at this stage is a good opportunity to assess if they had a drink, their vigour and the ewes mothering ability, with problem animals recorded to be removed from the flock. I am a firm believer that genetics are the biggest thing we can control in our flock, nutrition, and disease being the others.

The results from the blood tests are in from the barren ewes. It looks like toxoplasmosis was the cause, we have sneaked away without vaccinating until now, but we will definitely be vaccinating the incoming ewes this year.

I have nominated a few more of our Hampshire rams to the RamCompare project, I am looking forward to the results webinar on the 18th May, to see how all the top terminal sire rams compare on commercial farms.