Sophie Wernham

1st April 2022

March

March is scanning month on the farm for us! And we are all pleased with this year's results. With an average of 188%, ranging from the older ewes being just over 200% to 173% in the shearlings. The shearlings this year are around 10% higher than on previous years.

Having put our ewe lambs to a beltex tup for quite a few years we decided last year to try something different, and run on our ewe lambs instead. Although we found lots of advantages for tupping our ewe lambs not only a financial gain but I also believe it makes them better mothers, with lambing outdoors our ewes can be on the ‘wild side’ but the shearlings that have already had a lamb are a lot quieter, which makes the job easier!! (It’ll be interesting to see how the first time shearlings lamb this May!)

We did find the challenge for us was maintaining condition score, especially over the summer months, hot dry summers really took its toll on grass growth and therefore had a big impact on the weight gain on the lambs and condition of the ewes come tupping time, consequently having an affect on our lambing percentage. I feel if our grazing situation was to change, I think we would go back to lambing our ewe lambs. Perhaps we would consider weaning the ewe lambs a lot earlier than the rest of the flock.

April

With this years crop of lambs starting to hit the ground, we are glad to see most of the hoggs off to market. With the last 140 finishing off on good spring grass hopefully ready to go in the next couple of weeks. With the help of 70 acres of cover crops early in the autumn, from a neighbouring arable farm, we managed to see our first load of fit lambs away to market in early November, seven weeks before we would normally start selling.

The majority of our hoggs are finished on stubble turnips with the slightly smaller lambs finishing on the grass later on. Although last year we did keep a small group of lambs on grass all winter as turnips were limited due to the late harvest in 2021, therefore we were unable to get as many turnips planted as we would have liked. With that being said we have managed well over the winter with the help of some extra grass at a near dairy farm.

The best part of our lambs are sold through Thame market with just over 450 going off to Dunbia this year. All our hoggs that go to Thame are an average of 46kg with Dunbia taking the slightly smaller framed lambs. All in all we are very happy with how all the hoggs have finished and the overall price that they have sold for this year.

May

Juggling lambing and looking after a two year old has certainly been eventful this month!

We started lambing the third week in April all outdoors in the hope the weather would be kind to us and the grass good. With only one wet day during the whole of lambing this year we were definitely grateful to finally see some rain! We keep all our ewes in their age groups, starting with the first 600 older ewes and the rest following on around a week later.

It was great to spend a few days away from the farm on our second Next Generation session in Welshpool. Lots of great ideas and knowledge taken home from it. We had a fantastic talk from AHDB who then took us to Farmers Fresh abattoir and talked us through the grading process, which I found very interesting.

I’m looking forward to catching up with the rest of the group again in July at the NSA sheep event. 

 

June

June has been a busy month on the farm, with the first Ovivac injections done and all the lambs having Clik Xtra applied, we hope to have the ewes sheared in the next few weeks.

We managed to have a good count of all the lambs and we are happy with the result working out at 179%. I think this year's lambing went really well but we did have a problem with foxes in the field where the four tooth’s lambed and I would say that did have an impact on our percentage.

I also found this year that the shearlings didn’t lamb as well as in previous years, Mis-mothering and just leaving one lamb behind. I much prefer having lambed them as ewe lambs I believe it makes them better mothers! So that is definitely something to think about for next year! 

I spent two days this month at the NSA South East Region field days helping Chairman Yann Le Du, it was a fantastic couple of days albeit very hot! Lots of interesting talks from Elenco and Bimeda, it was a great turn out and good to meet some new people. 

July

I was really pleased to get my pedigree Hampshire Down lambs away to Market in late June. Averaging 42kg, I also entered them into the Three Counties Show butchers lamb competition to which my lambs came fourth which I was delighted with!

On the farm where I shepherd, we have been busy making hay and shearing and are starting to think of weaning, slightly earlier than normal but with the lack of rainfall we are beginning to get tight on grazing. Once weaned we can start to get the ewes and lambs further away from home.