Northumberland farmer scoops top sheep award
Winner of the Caltech Hampshire Down Commercial Flock of the Year 2012 is Simon Bainbridge, of Donkin Rigg, Cambo, Northumberland, who was commended for both his technical and business approach to sheep farming which features producing high performance lambs off a low cost grass based system.
The joint runners up are David Harrison, Chipping Campden and Michael Wentworth Waites (farm manager, Jim Campbell), Penrith.
Caltech put up £1,000 worth of Crystalyx product split between the three finalists who also received ram purchase vouchers from the Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders’ Association.
Judge, NSA chief executive Phil stocker commented: "Each of the three finalists were demonstrating innovation and best practice in many areas, they managed their respective sheep enterprises to an impressively high standard, and it was clear that the Hampshire Down as a terminal sire has a dedicated and well justified following, however Simon Bainbridge stood out in all the judging areas - cost control, recording and genetic selection, health management, outstanding grassland forage and soil management. Equally important, he had a clear focus on his market and meeting its specifications."
Mr Bainbridge manages a 1,600 acre organic farming business, the majority of which is in the SDA and carrying 1,400 ewes, a mix of Swaledales and North of England Mules, plus 140 cow suckler enterprise with all progeny taken through to finishing.
The unit is focused on maximising efficiency by reducing carbon footprint. The closed flock is lambed outdoors from mid-April and lambs reach target 19kg to 20kg finishing weight from 12 weeks. The entire crop is finished before the end of the year off a forage based diet, and without the use of concentrates. All lambs are currently marketed through Dunbia for a multiple. EBVs are used in selection procedures – both rams and ewes for performance and easy care traits, and to breed efficient ewe replacements that suit the farm and system.
Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders Association’s Paul Rooke commented: “This year has once again seen a strong entry from commercial producers who are top of their game in flock management and who have identified with the use of Hampshire Down rams as a terminal sire to deliver prime lambs meeting both buyer and market expectation.
“With future market demands looking for delivery of consistent quality in a sustainable manner, the Hampshire Down is ticking all of the right boxes and we look forward to working with more producers keen to exploit the breed’s benefits as a modern terminal sire.”
David Harrison, Briar Hill Farm, Broad Campden, Chipping Campden, Gloucs300 acres
1,300 ewe comprising Mules and Beulahs; plus arable enterprise
David has adopted a low cost system featuring outdoor lambing, breeding his own replacements selected for easier care traits and finishing the vast majority of lambs off forage. Hampshire Downs were introduced five years ago in an attempt to speed up finishing off grass and also to improve management at lambing, and they have achieved the objectives. Lambs are reaching target weight up to three to four weeks earlier than his Continental cross lambs, lambs and easily lambed and demonstrate that real will to live.
Michael Wentworth Waites, Thornthwaite Hall, Bampton, Penrith, Cumbria222 acres
900 ewes comprising Swaledale, Aberdale cross and Texel cross; plus beef enterprise
Michael is using five Hampshire Down rams to fulfil the flock’s objectives of running an extensive, low input grass-based system to produce a fast finishing lamb with excellent conformation. The Hampshire Down is also favoured for the ability to leave lambs that are born with minimal intervention outside with thick skins that suit the climate and are up and suckling quickly. 80% are finished off grass and mainly sold to a specialist butcher where a premium is achieved. Michael selects rams with the minimum criteria of being within the breed’s top 10% for growth rates and muscle and fat depth.