Lambing is about over at Bearwood for another year. This year has been challenging to say the least; 6 inches of snow and temperatures down to -13 degrees!
Even with these cold temperatures, ewes lambed with no problems and lambs were “licked off” and up and sucking quickly, testament to the easy lambing and good maternal instincts of the Lleyn and Blue Texel breed.
I lamb the flock on my own, with the help from my neighbour for a couple of hours on my busiest days. 200 (out of 220) ewes lambed in 16 days which allowed me to adopt all triplet lambs onto singles, thereby having no orphan lambs to feed. The use of teasers (vasectomised) rams in the autumn really “tightens up” the lambing period.
I find block feeding suits my system here at Bearwood for a number of reasons:
Ease of management.
Eliminates pushing and shunting that occurs when feeding concentrates prior to lambing which can lead to ewes loosing lambs early and proplapses.
Eliminates over supply of milk at lambing due to over feeding. Lambs cannot “latch” on to large teats which can lead to lamb death and mastitis. I find that ewes milk to lambs demand on blocks.
Eliminates young lambs loosing their mothers that can occur in the “cavalry charge” when you arrive at the field when concentrate feeding. With blocks, ewes and lambs are relaxed and it is easy to identify lambs that are not with their mothers and react accordingly.
Concentrate feeding in the field is done once, possibly twice a day. With blocks ewes are able to obtain energy 24 hours a day and whenever they require it. This has been noticeable this year when we have had snow on the ground and very cold temperatures. Lambs have always had full bellies even when the weather has been dismal and I noticed that block consumption increased dramatically when snow was on the ground and ewes were unable to get to the grass.
Lambs get the benefits of the blocks as they get older. I do not creep feed so when ewes milk supply starts to decrease and lambs begin to eat grass they get the benefit of the blocks also.
We now need some warm weather to make the grass grow and sunshine for the ewes and lambs.
Article on the simplified feeding system here at Bearwood published in March 2018 by Rumenco
I am thrilled to have been able to purchase a yearling ram privately from R & S Evans, Norfolk. This ram has top performance figures, alongside high worm resistance EBV’s. He is just the sort of ram that I like, good depth of body with length and a good backend with a tight fleece. His bloodline is new to the Bearwood Flock and I look forward to seeing his progeny next year.
A homebred yearling that is currently the highest rated Signet Recorded Lleyn yearling ram will be retained. His father is also currently the highest rated Signet Lleyn stock sire – 971:140661– (This ram was sold to P Aubrey, Devon last autumn). I have a number of 0661’s daughters in the flock already and 03592 will be used on the other bloodlines.
As most sheep farmers will know, the one part of your body that starts to give you problems as you get older is your back and I am no exception.
In the past I have spent hours every winter filling bags with feed both morning and evening and forking out silage twice a day but I have been told by the experts that I need to find a way of easing the workload on my back if I want to be mobile in 15- 20 years time.
This autumn I am feeding Rumevite blocks to the ewes with only the triplets getting a small amount of concentrate 2 weeks before lambing. I have used the Super Energy + Fish Oil to date and will change to Lifeline Ewe and Lamb 4-6 weeks before lambing and then use Graze UDP for ewes and lambs when they are turned out after lambing. For the blocks to be a success the ewes must have access to good quality forage and for the past number of years I have really concentrated on making good quality round bale silage in the summer.
This is by no means cheaper than using only concentrate but the costs will hopefully be somewhere near especially in what I save in the usual osteopathic treatment costs post normal lambing!! Time will tell.
Bedding costs have been saved this year as it has been so dry. I normally house ewes just before Christmas (10 weeks pre lambing) but this year they will be housed 5-6 weeks before.
Due to not having a large number of ewes, bedding down and feeding silage to housed ewes is manual rather than mechanical so the reduced time the sheep are in the sheds is good news for my back! This year when the ewes are housed I will be feeding them whole bale silage in cradle feeders which they can eat ad-lib and it also saves me forking out silage twice a day; I’ll let the tractor do the heavy work.
I will be interesting to see how this new feeding regime works.
Another busy autumn with sales of both Lleyn and Blue Texel sheep. All animals were sold off the farm and went to all four corners of the UK.
18 Blue Texel ewe lambs and 2 Blue Texel tups went to South Wales to form a new flock. 5 older Blue Texel ewes went east to Lincolnshire to again form a new flock and a couple of tups were sold to commercial producers.
I kept the majority of my Lleyn ewe lambs as I am going to be selling yearlings in future but a couple of small groups were sold to repeat customers. 30 Lleyn yearling ewes went to South Wales as did a couple of Lleyn tups. Yearling and older Lleyn tups went as far a field as Scotland and Devon, East Anglia and West Wales. We are in a good location as livestock haulage companies from across the UK have wagons coming by most weeks during the sale season.
I am now getting prepared for lambing which begins 1st March.
A new stock ram was purchased at the Ross on Wye Lleyn Sale this autumn. The yearling, Lluest Eccentric is by Goldies Lochar Cosity out of a high performing Lluest ewe that has both Bronallt Big Daddy and Balliney Action Man bloodlines in her pedigree. Results for the past two years from the worm resistance project that I am part of have shown that lambs from these bloodlines have higher worm resistance EBVs than from other bloodlines in the flock. The ram also has good maternal and carcase figures and we will have to see how his lambs turn out next spring.
Adam Henson and the Countryfile team visited Bearwood yesterday to film the Lleyn flock. Adam purchased two rams to join his sheep flock at the Cotswold Farm Park. He was interested in performance recorded Lleyn rams that had good resistance to worms.
Countryfile were interested in the data recording I have been doing for the past 18 years and the new research project I am involved with looking at genetic resistance into sheep worms.
The film footage will be shown during the Countryfile episode on 28th August 2016.
Lambing is coming to an end for another year. I had a lambing assistant from a non farming background helping me this year. It is nice to see a young person passionate about sheep and wanting to forge a career in the industry.
The weather was settled for the majority of March which allowed us to put ewes and lambs straight out to pasture 48hrs after birth. The storms over Easter were not pleasant, winds from the north and east with rain is a “lamb killer” on any lamb that is weak or looses it’s mother during the night. We luckily only lost a couple of lambs with the others looking pretty miserable but as I write this post, the sun is out and all lambs are jumping about.
The Blue Texels lambed well with 75% being ewe lambs, which is just what I wanted. This means I will have between 15 and 20 Blue Texel ewe lambs for sale this year. The Lleyn percentage of ewe to ram lambs is 50%, so there will be up to 200 ewe lambs available. All ewes lambed with little assistance and with plenty of milk and the lambs are doing well.
I am Secretary of the Performance Recorded Lleyn Breeders, a group of 22 flockmasters across the United Kingdom; from the Highlands of Scotland to Devon and Norfolk to West Wales. The size of members flocks range from 50 to 2000 ewes. We are working with the scientific and livestock industry to use performance and genetics to increase prifitability in sheep production.
One exciting project we got funding for is looking at worm restistance in sheep. More information on this project can be found by “clicking on the link” below: