Faster finishing lambs = fewer gathers and doses, reduced risk, more grazing freed up
Malcolm and Judith Sanderson produced 10% more meat per acre sold from their 210 acre tenanted grassland unit thanks to improved livestock and grassland management during the four years since their Lower Highfield Farm, Halton, near Lancaster was chosen as the North West Beef and Sheep Monitor Farm.
And they are continuing to improve on this by making ongoing management changes to their flock of 600 Mule and Texel cross breeding ewes. Working with independent consultant, Lesley Stubbings they are not only looking at mineral status, worm control, optimum ewe condition scoring and grassland improvement but also trialing a new terminal sire breed which has brought significant benefits.
“After a conversation with a local Hampshire Down breeder, who was looking for a farm with EID to trial a Hampshire Down ram and then to record and share the results, we agreed to trial a Hampshire Down ram on 50% of our Texel cross hoggs. The trial has been going for two years and has produced encouraging results targeting one of our main objectives, to finish all our lambs more quickly off grass.
“We’ve found the Hampshire Down cross lambs reached 18-20kg target deadweight on average 20 days earlier, they were slightly heavier and graded well – 93% were R3L or better with 50% achieving a U conformation grade.
“Faster finishing means fewer gathers and doses, it reduces risk and frees up more grazing for the rest of the flock which from mid-summer onwards is very important for us,” explains Malcolm who is aware that grass has a significant value. Ewes bearing twin lambs requiring 2.8kg grass DM per day - 1.5kg per ewe and 1.3kg per twin lambs, costed at 30p per day. We’re pleased with the results and intend to extend the role of Hampshire Downs this year, introducing them to a portion of our Mule and Texel cross ewes as part of the Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders’ Association’s trial work. It’s going to be very interesting to monitor their overall impact within 12 month’s time.
“We find these rams maintain condition and work really well purely off grass. The hoggs have lambed very easily, the lambs are up and sucking almost straight away, after turnout the lambs just motor away off milk and grass.”
Malcolm Sanderson said he had no hesitation in introducing a Hampshire Down performance recorded ram into his flock, selected for high EBVs for growth rates. “We are open to trying anything new, if we think it’s the right thing to do and will bring benefits.” In addition, the Sanderson’s have been attempting to address the farm’s natural mineral deficiency, and are currently carrying out trials comparing three different cobalt based products. They are also working with independent sheep consultant, Lesley Stubbings on a ewe condition scoring programme which features scoring and weighing at mating, scanning, pre lambing and weaning, to determine optimal condition.
They have introduced various measures including FEC to optimize worming policy and improved grassland management since taking over the farm in 2001.Vital to increasing the business’s productivity and profitability has been improving the quality and quantity of grassland by re-seeding, over-seeding, aeration and liming which in turn have produced up to
three tonnes more grass per acre. The couple have also introduced a new grazing policy from late July onwards, with lambs moving on to the next field after five days of grazing.
Malcolm Sanderson explains; “Our focus is on maximizing potential and efficiency. Constantly looking at what we can improve and increasing our knowledge has allowed us to grow in confidence. In 2014 we changed from running our own suckler cow herd and to rearing dairy heifer replacements for a local dairy farm which has been very positive.”
He adds: “We plan to continue to fine tune our farming systems. We’re looking forward to more, faster finishing Hampshire Down cross lambs next year and the outcome of our current farm trace element trials and we will remain open to considering new ideas.”