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
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.
I will have around 250 Lleyn ewe lambs available this year and a small number of Blue Texel ewe lambs. The lambs will be weaned by the middle of July and will be ready to leave the farm at the beginning of August. Many of the Lleyn ewe lambs purchased are put to the tup in the autumn. All lambs have performance figures and can be registered if required.
More and more customers come and buy ewe lambs off the farm; they can look at the breeding ewes and stock rams and see the farming system at Bearwood. They can also see the sale animals in their “working clothes” and not overfed like so many animals that go through the sale ring. The ewe lambs are reared off grass and are not fed creep; they are left to grow naturally as I am keen to produce stock that utilize grass efficiently. If my order book is filled before sale entry deadline then I will not be selling anything through the sale ring.
What a difference a couple of months make. Back in May we had no grass and all the animals were in need of warm temperatures and sun. How they have all altered since the heatwave during July. The grass has grown and all animals are blooming.
Hay and good quality haylage has been made and stored to be fed this coming winter and lambs weaned from the ewes. Lambs ready to go for meat were sold through Hereford market and replacement ewe and ram lambs have been sorted.
July has been a busy month showing prospective purchasers round the Bearwood flock. More buyers are coming to the farm to buy their replacements; they like to see the sheep in their “working clothes” and look at the farming system to make sure it will compliment their system.
The upshot of this is that 16 yearling rams have already been sold and 100 ewe lambs reserved to go to a couple of breeders. Semen from Bearwood Trooper has also been purchased by a breeder that had used Trooper’s semen last year.
I also have visited a couple of flocks to view
rams as I require 2 Lleyn stock rams this year. Registered Lleyn rams with good performance figures and the right bloodlines are difficult to find but I hope to have both rams purchased within the next couple of weeks. I prefer to buy off the farm for the reasons mentioned above.
I hope to also purchase a few more Blue Texel ewes and a Blue Texel ram so my shopping spree has not finished yet! More details of my purchases will follow when the sales have been concluded.
The sale season is fast approaching. I hope to go to Ross on Wye with ewe lambs in September and Welshpool in October. I am attending fewer sales this year due to the number of sheep I have sold off the farm.
I have purchase a new weigh crate designed by Martin Tompkins of Border Software and a True Test reader which reads the animals EID and records it’s weight. I am weighing more often now to get a better idea of live weight gain of lambs and mature weight of ewes. It is also useful to see which ewe is producing her own body weight in lamb meat when we weigh ewes and lambs at weaning.
Lambing is well under way and thank goodness all lambs born so far have been fit and healthy with no signs of the Schmallenberg virus being present.
In past years when feeding concentrate to ewes indoors I have used sheep rolls instead of nuts and thrown them onto the straw for the ewes to eat. I find feeding sheep this way prevents pushing and shoving that occurs when trough feeding. The ewes also spend many hours during the day ferreting around in the straw for food, thereby not getting bored. The one problem I found when feeding rolls was that older and younger ewes had problems eating them and many ewes that had recently lambed were not interested in them. I was also hesitant to throw nuts onto the straw as I was worried that due to the size of the nut there would be a lot of wastage and this concerned me with the price of concentrate feed going up year on year. This year I made the decision to use sheep nuts and I have been very impressed with the results. All the feed is eaten up with very little wastage and the ewes are producing lots of milk.
Nearly all the Blue Texels have lambed. The majority have lambed on their own and the lambs have been up on their feet and sucking in no time. The ewes are very good mothers which makes my job much easier. One ewe had to have a caesarian as she had two big lambs inside her with one lamb twisted. There was not enough room to untwist the lamb and deliver it normally so the decision was made to get the lambs out by surgery.
The Lleyns are also lambing and again they lamb on their own and my main job is moving ewes and lambs to individual pens and weighing and tagging lambs for recording purposes. Like past years, I only have to assist roughly 1 in a 100 ewes that lamb.
We have a thriving lamb bar at present. I only put 2 lambs on a ewe so a ewe that has three lambs has one spare. This lamb will be reared artificially using powdered milk.
The camera in the sheep shed has revolutionized lambing for me, especially at nights. I can scan the shed from my computer or smart phone and do not have to continually go out to the shed, thereby disturbing the sheep. As an example, last night my alarm went off at 2am. I scanned the shed and saw that a few ewes had lambed, all the lambs were OK and with their mothers, so I reset the alarm for 5.30am so I could sort everything out before feeding. Now that we have been lambing for a couple of weeks, the lambing pens have thinned out so there is room for a ewe to find a space away from the others to lamb.
I try to turn ewes and lambs out onto grass as soon as possible after birth but I do make sure there is are forecast of 48 hours dry weather after turnout. The grass is not growing yet, however, I luckily have enough hay and silage to see me through.
Now I am waiting for warmer weather. It will not only make the grass grow but do me some good as well!
4 Blue Texel yearling ewes were purchased at the Blue Texel Sheep Society Sale at Worcester Livestock Market last Saturday. They come from the MAC flock of Heather McCurdie, Warwickshire. I bought a couple of yearling ewes from the same flock last year and they have done very well here at Bearwood during the past 12 months, lambing on their own and rearing their lambs off grass.