Article published in the Farmers Guardian 31st August 2018 – Sheep Special on Performance Recording at Bearwood
Welcome to the Bearwood pedigree sheep website. Bearwood Farm has two flocks of sheep; a Lleyn flock (Flock 981) which was established in 1998 and a Blue Texel flock established in 2011. The flocks total 250 ewes (200 Lleyn / 50 Blue Texel) and 150 replacements and both flocks started performance recording when they were established which led me to being nominated for the Farmers Weekly Sheep Farmer of the Year award in 2013, where I was a finalist and in 2016 I was awarded the Signet/AHDB Better Returns Award for the Lleyn breeder that had made the greatest improvement in breeding potential in 2015.
The sheep are kept on 100 acres of rented permanent pasture adjoining Bearwood and are managed by one person, so all the easy care traits and most importantly ease of lambing are taken into account when selecting replacement ewes and rams.
The Lleyn ewe is very versatile. She is a medium-sized ewe, prolific, lambs easily, is a goodmother, a good forage converter and is long lived. You can breed her pure or put another breed on her. I mainly use Lleyn rams and the majority of lambs going for meat meet the R3L classification or better with an average carcase weight of 20 kg.
For many years I have lambed my ewe lamb replacements, recently putting a Blue Texel ram to them, as this cross produces good meat lambs with the possibility of the females going for breeding. I had no problems at lambing time and the lambs have great carcases and skins. The majority of these lambs that go for meat grade E or U at 18 – 19kgs deadweight. Due to a change in farming policy and customers wanting to purchase Bearwood Lleyn yearlings, I now run ewe lambs through the winter and have yearlings available for sale from early summer onwards.
The Blue Texel is narrow in the head and easily lambed. They are good mothers with plenty of milk and rear their lambs easily off grass. The breed is docile in temperament and has characteristic markings on the face and a unique colored fleece that is popular with spinners.
The Lleyn and Blue Texel flocks are performance recorded with Signet BreedingServices. Lambs are weighed at birth, 8 weeks and 21 weeks, where lambs are also scanned for back fat and muscle depth. Yearling ewes are weighed at 18 months to get an idea of mature weight. All ewes are recorded for “lambing ease” at lambing. This data is evaluated and each animal is given an Estimated Breeding Value (EBV) for the most important genetic traits. These are 8-Week weight EBV, Mature size EBV, Litter size EBV, Maternal ability EBV, Scan weight EBV, Muscle depth EBV and Fat depth EBV. Since 2014 I have been involved with a research project looking into “worm resistance in lambs” (see below) and now take FEC and saliva samples of my lambs to produce a FEC EBV.
I am a member of Performance Recorded Lleyn Breeders (PRLB); a group of like minded breeders that are working closely with the scientific community and industry bodies. We have obtained funding to look at worm resistance in sheep. We are identifying lambs that are genetically more resistant to the common British round worm. The impact of this research will have massive implications to the commercial farmer in the future, as worm resistance amongst the UK flock is a big problem.
All high indexed rams are blood tested to see whether they are carriers of the MyoMAX gene (to learn more about MyoMAX, go to the “Stock Rams & MyoMax” page on this website). Performance data in conjunction with an assessment of breed type and confirmation are used to select stock as replacements and for sale.
These EBVs can assist breeders and ram buyers to identify stock for a specific breeding objective. Please contact me to discuss your requirements or for help with understanding Estimated Breeding Values.
I aim to sell all my sheep “off the farm”. The majority of lambs are reared off grass and concentrate is only used to finish the last few at the end of the year to create space for lambing. Customers visit the farm and are able to look at all the sheep, including ewes, stock rams, yearling rams and lambs. They are also able to see the type of grassland the sheep are reared on and view the flock in their “working clothes”. The feedback I get from customers that come back year after year is that they prefer to select their sheep in their own time rather than the pressurized environment of the sale ring. Biosecurity and the stress animals go through on sale day are other reasons people prefer to buy “off the farm”.
I have a presence on various social media sites, notably Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. I will regularly pin articles on new technologies in sheep breeding to my board and anything else that I think is interesting.
When I am not farming I compete and coach triathlon. I am a member of Hereford Triathlon Club and head coach of the Ludlow Junior Tri Club and also part of the coaching team at British Triathlon’s Skill School and the Welsh Developement Academy. I am a British Triathlon’s Level 3 High Performance Coach and coach athletes through my business InBalance Coaching.
The change in farming policy here at Bearwood has meant that the sheep flock has been reduced over the last couple of years, which has allowed me to concentrate on coaching.