3rd April 2017
With a recent decision to develop an entirely closed flock that is self-sufficient in both male and female replacements, Matthew has his work cut out for him as the employed shepherd for JCB farms near Stoke-on-Trent. The introduction of 200 performance recorded pedigree Lleyns has added another dimension to Matthew’s role, which already included the management of 1,150 Lleyn cross ewes to produce finished lambs for Daylesford Organic, JCB’s retail partnership.
Matthew told the selection panel he wanted to ensure a closed flock did not mean a closed attitude, in terms of knowing what other people were doing and how the sector is evolving at this key political time.
Top fact: Matthew was one of the NSA members who volunteered at Countryfile Live last summer. He says: “It was a real eye opener for me. So many people had no idea how farming sheep worked or what is involved in producing the very best lamb available. As an industry, we must make it our responsibility to better promote ourselves and market our produce.”
The last of the tupped gimmer lambs housed three weeks later than last year due to a fairly mild winter and better grass management and we have managed to make a financial saving of around £1.00 per sheep per week on housing costs. We are now just starting to give the in lamb ewes their annual booster injection against chlostridial diseases and a second trace element bolus of combined selenium, cobalt and iodine. We have also tightened up our lambing period, so most ewes are due to lamb in the first 14 days this year.
After attending the first NSA Next Generation Ambassador delivery session in mid-February, meeting the rest of the group fills me with great enthusiasm for the future. It was great to get to know likeminded individuals who are making their mark in the sheep sector. Some great discussion and ideas were debated within the group with a huge amount of positivity for present times and for the future. I think the whole group learnt a huge amount to take home to utilise within our own businesses.
With Brexit on the horizon, there is a lot of uncertainty at present but I am sure there will be plenty of opportunity. We must as an industry stand united and lobby for a better farming policy which will be crucial for sheep farming. With the NSA fighting our corner in Government, it has never been more important that we existing members do our bit at local level to encourage our fellow sheep farmers to support NSA in its quest to deliver the right message for a better sheep farming future.
It has been a very eventful month already with the first hints of spring arriving into 2017. I became the proud father of baby Alice who was born Monday 27th February and both mum and Alice are doing very well!
Back on the farm, we’ve been busy finishing off vaccinating against clostridial diseases and bolusing both ewes and gimmer lambs which all look tremendous in the run up to lambing. We introduced recording performance and growth rates with our EID system in 2015 and this is looking to be paying off already in the younger sheep. We’ve a cracking bunch of in lamb gimmers entering the flock this year which are very uniform as a group weighing around 55kg. Our aim is to produce a mature ewe between 65 to 70kg so it will be interesting to follow these sheep through the next year to see if we are achieving those goals. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
With lambing looming, we are mainly focussed on finalising pen set up and setting up nursery yards as well as making sure sundry stocks are in good supply in preparation for staff to arrive next week. A very welcomed week of sun has been much needed to finally kick start some grass growth. Let’s hope it’s the start to an earlier spring than last year. On that note, I’d like to wish everyone luck whether the lambing period is finished or just about to start.
Well where has the last month gone. It only seems like yesterday when I was writing my last blog and the shed was full of expectant mothers.
Lambing has gone really well with a great team of staff this year who have worked really hard to achieve a top job. We lambed 90% of the 2,000 ewes in just 14 days, and at a higher turnout percentage, which has been helped with some great dry weather to give the lambs a great. I’m sure will be reflect in growth rate when we take our 8 week weights.
Gimmer lambs started on the 30th March and as I write on the 20th April we have just one left to lamb. They’ve been a pleasure to lamb and are very pleasing on the eye. I’m a great believer in plenty of tups and teaser rams which has certainly been proven to work this year with such a tight lambing period. This has helped to reduce labour cost and made for easier management throughout the summer, with lambs more consistent in age for vaccinating, weighing and similar jobs.
We have just one more group of 400 to start lambing on the 26th April outside. Let’s hope the weather doesn’t change too much, but if we could just order a bit of rain between now and then that would be great!
Once again, a busy month on the farm with the last 400 ewes lambing outside. We’ve starting the annual vaccination of the main flock lambs against clostridial diseases, in particular pasturella which seems to be an ever-growing problem on our farm. In my opinion, this is due to changing weather patterns in the late grazing season, so this year we are working closely with our vets to reduce the risk of an outbreak in the autumn. Our plan is to vaccinate all replacement females for a third time and not treat the store lambs, we’ll monitor growth and losses to see how cost effective the third vaccination is against performance output.
The May lambing has been going well, with half the ewes lambed in the first 10 days. This has been helped by some kind weather in Staffordshire, with plenty of warmth and the occasional rain shower which has really kick started the grass growth-much earlier than last year. These growing conditions have helped given the lambs in the main flock a tremendous start to life with lambs growing at a fantastic rate.
By June, we will have started taking eight-week weights of both pedigree and commercial lambs which will show how well they’re growing. I’m looking forward to been able to report on that next month, so that note let’s keep fingers crossed that the grass and lambs keep growing.
Well they say make hay when the sun shines and it’s certainly been a good month for it in Staffordshire! Since my last blog we’ve got all the clamped and baled silage made alongside some nice hay for lambing.
Ewes and lambs are still performing well with many lambs getting very close to being ready to draw, around two weeks earlier than last year and three weeks earlier than 2015. I strongly believe this down to improved genetics and better grass quality this spring.
My thoughts are now turning to managing grass and lambs for a steady supply of lambs through our retail business Daylesford Organic. This could prove to be tricky this year with so much silage aftermath available, although it’s a great position to be in for the time of year. We shouldn’t get carried away though, it’s only July and we could be in for a drought in a month’s time which would leave no grass for tupping.
In my role as a NSA Next Generation Ambassador representing NSA, it fills me with great pleasure to be involved at regional level of the organisation. On 20th June, NSA Central Region Committee met to discuss current sheep sector issues arising at both regional and national level, unsurprisingly Brexit took up a large proportion of the agenda. We’re still in the early stages of what could be a rollercoaster ride, so it is so important for sheep farmers keep voicing their opinion to encourage government not to forget the importance of sheep farming and the role it has within the countryside.
Our NSA representatives are working tirelessly at government level, but we need to stick together and support the organisation as the voice for sheep farming. I really would encourage everyone that possibly can to get involved and become a member for a stronger voice.