Blog: Fred Love
1st March 2016
Fred Love (23) is an NSA Next Generation Ambassador from Retford Nottinghamshire. Starting as a first generation sheep farmer just four years ago, Fred has made quick progress and already runs 600 Lleyn ewes. That is alongside a shearing round managed with a friend and taking in 20,000 sheep. Finding grazing ground for sheep can be difficult in an area where competition from arable farms and anaerobic digesters is high, but Fred is a believer that sheep can benefit arable rotations and hopes to increase access to land from his current base near Retford. Fred’s target of more land and high stocking rates is linked to an ambition to grow to 1,000 in the next five years, with more ewe lambs sold for breeding and quality prime lambs sales from the remainder.
Fred wants to surround himself with positive people in this quest, saying the NSA Next Generation Ambassador group ‘with likeminded people who see a positive future like me’ will inspire him further. He wants to give back to the industry in time too. “I want to be a role model and show it’s not impossible to start from nowhere and build up,” Fred says, adding that he’d love to offer apprentices and training within his business in the future.
Top fact: While shearing has helped fund Fred’s flock expansion, it has also helped him to success in NSA Young Shepherd of the Year competitions, taking best placed under 21 in a regional competition a couple of years ago.
Scroll down for entries from Fred about his farming year in 2016.
Since the weather has finally begun to look like it is changing for the better, the ground is starting to dry just as the sheep are returning from their winter grazing. We are due to starting lambing our indoor ewes this week, and have been busy fencing the ground they’re are due to be turned out on to. Our ewe lambs also scanned at a very pleasing 117%, and they are now being grouped up ready for lambing at the start of April. The prime lamb trade seems to have picked up too, which is also pleasing for us as we still have some hogs left to sell.
I am very fortunate to have acquired some additional grazing this year, due to a local farmer having a bad blackgrass problem. We now however have the difficult job of going through the seed catalogues to decide which would most suit our livestock enterprise as well as the arable farmer’s system.
Having recently returned from the first NSA Ambassador delivery session, I am filled with new ideas and enthusiasm for the sheep industry. It was a fantastic couple of days with some very interesting talks, ranging from sheep EBV’s to the importance body conditions scoring, as well as many others. There was never a quiet moment as we could always just talk about sheep- brilliant! And I feel very lucky to be surrounded by such a great group of people. A highlight for me was a farm tour from previous NSA Next Generation Ambassador Kate Robinson, where we heard of some interesting ram compare trials the farm at which she works is currently undertaking. I am now really looking forward to the next session in May.
I would like to wish you all good luck in the up and coming lambing season, and hope that the good weather holds out for us all.
March seems to have gone past with a bit in a bit of a blur and it has been a bit of a hectic month! We started lambing the first bunch of ewes on 1st March as planned and were all but finished by the 10th- It’s safe to say the teasers did their job! All-in-all the lambing went well though and the ewes were in good condition after being wintered away on other local farms. We did bring them indoors earlier than we normally would do this year, due to the wet weather but it’s a real joy to be turning them back out to grass now.
We are now in the process of getting the outdoor ewes ready for lambing which have all been split into groups according to scanning results and condition. We have pre-numbered the ewes and linked their numbers to the ewes ear tag, this means we don’t have to individually catch each ewe out in the field once they have lambed to link up and record her lamb(s). We are now hoping for a nice warm April and a successful lambing of our later lambing ewes. Having recorded data of ewes and lambs at birth for the past couple of years, we decided to also weigh the lambs at birth this year, from which we’ve had some interesting results. I look forward to seeing the comparison between birth weight and growth rates later in the year.
This month we’ve also taken up the exciting opportunity of some additional land, along with some ewes with lambs at foot. This has worked really well and are a nice addition to our existing flock.
With the March lambing ewes and lambs all settled in to their summer grazing and looking well, it has left some time to concentrate on the ewes and ewe lambs lambing outdoors. I think it’s safe to say the weather has not really been on our side, but it’s amazing how tough the lambs are at just a few hours old. We have had some trouble this year with very large lambs in the ewe lambs so may be looking at using a smaller tup in future to combat the issue. I’ve also discovered all the work we did linking up and numbering the ewes on their backs pre lambing (so we could record each lamb) was a complete waste of time. In future, we will be putting the numbers on their sides! Lambing outside has been a big learning curve for me as this year is the first time we’ve done it and also the first time we have lambed a large number of ewe lambs. I am largely pleased with how it is going though and I’m definitely considering lambing all the sheep outside next year.
In-between lambing outdoors, I have been doing FEC counts on the early lambers so we can closely monitor worm burden and keep the lambs growing as this year we have decided to not use any creep. We have also given the lambs a mineral drench to help their growth. We’re now hoping we can finally get on with drilling the new grassland, and the weather holds out long enough for us to get it in!
Lambing has ended. I have really enjoyed it this year, with the use of teasers helping dramatically to tighten it up. It is now time to start focusing on the other jobs. Normally this time of year I would be starting to dust off the shearing gear and trying to squeeze into the trousers that where dropping off me the end of last season, but it has been a much more relaxed start since I’ve decided to start concentrating more on my own flock now that it’s has grown. Not to mention that my friend Ed, who always was the better and keener sheerer, has now replaced me with a kiwi. I couldn’t be happier with the new arrangements and I’m just drafted in as and when I’m needed so that Ed can have a day with his own sheep, or sometimes do his sheep work for him. It is working out really well.
With more time on my hands now, I have been able to focus on other jobs. Such as grassland management, recording of breeding stock and establishing new leys. All of which I believe will help dramatically improve the profitability of the business.
The NSA Next Generation programme has really made me think about the business and with lots of new ideas gain from it, I am now planning on some changes to try and make use of everything I have. We have now decided to lamb everything outdoors, to try and utilise the sheds for another use all year round. We’re also trying to move away from any concentrates and become a completely forage based system. It is a very exciting time and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.
June has been a bit of a blur with lots going on. We seem to have had grass coming out our ears, which I can’t really complain about. We’ve made more silage than we would like but did not want to see it go to waste. It has been a very unsettled month thought, with the weather not being the best for shearing. The grass we drilled in late May is now looking brilliant though.
We are busy with weaning lambs at the minute, separating them in to various weight groups and deciding which ones we’ll keep to be sheared to then go to the ram in the back end of this year.
We’ve also seen a few new arrivals on the farm this month, the first being 12 beef shorthorn heifers from my uncle. We’ve always wanted some cows and with there being plenty of grass we thought this would be perfect timing, but we’re also conscious of trying to tackle the worm burden and feel that having a small herd of cows to rotate around the farm will help to clean up the ground. The second new arrival is a pup called flin. He’s a kelpie cross collie and has settled in very well with the rest of the dogs- look forward to introducing him to the sheep in the future.
I am now looking forward to the NSA Sheep Event in Malvern, Worcestershire next month. Hope to see you all there!
It has been a busy and exciting couple of months on and off farm and we seem to have been all over buying stock and meeting some interesting and forward thinking people. For the first time this year we are trying two Aberfield rams over our Llyen ewes as the traits they have seem to be exactly what we are looking for. We have also bought some Aberfeild cross Llyen ewe lambs from a very inspiring lady Julia Howard, I’m excited to see how they do for us.
We’ve had our first load of lambs away, which we sold deadweight. I’m pleased with the outcome and the feedback from the abattoir and hopefully this will help us in selecting breeding stock in the future.
This week has seen us shearing all our ewe lambs. We’re also doing a bolus trial on them now and we’re aiming to put them in with the rams in November. I believe strongly in lambing ewe lambs as it is a good indicator as to how they will perform as ewes and a good chance to get rid of the unproductive ones before they cost you anything. Anything that doesn’t hit the right weight or doesn’t get in lamb will be culled culled.
It has also been great to see all the support for the industry initiative Love Lamb Week. It’s great to see people getting really involved as it’s a great opportunity to showcase what a great product British lambs is.
This month has been at bit different to our normal October, as we have taken the decision this year to push our lambing back a month to April given that we do not have the capacity to lamb all of our sheep indoors in March. We have been busy preparing all the ewes and ewe lambs ready for the tups as a result and have been splitting them up into the relevant bunches, depending on family groups and picking out the one we want to go to our maternal and terminal sires.
This month I also had a very interesting session with the other NSA Next Generation Ambassadors. The scale of both operations at the British Wool Marketing Board and Dunbia was quite breath-taking. I didn’t realise the amount of work and processes that happen to wool to produce a product that can be sold. The live to dead at Dunbia was also very useful as that is where the majority of our lambs go. I found the grading tutorial very helpful, with the visit from start to finish being very well done. The last session is now approaching fast and it will be sad when it comes to an end it has been fantastic and I would encourage anyone interested to apply.
Since my last blog we have taken out the teasers and have just introduced tups to the ewes. We have also moved a high majority of our flock off the farm and onto winter grazing with three different farms, over three different counties!
This year we are trialling forage rape and stubble turnips as well as our usual cattle grazing land. I am interested in seeing how the different crops benefits both the sheep and the arable land which it is on.
It amazes me how quickly this year has gone. The NSA Next Generation programme has been a fantastic opportunity, with such a variety of experiences from farm visits to meat and wool processing plants. It has really opened my eyes to the hole industry and made me very proud to be a part of it. I have also met a great bunch of people who will all remain friends and I would like to thanks the team at the NSA for putting together such a great programme. I will be recommending its to any young people in the sector.