14th August 2014

Kinross Lamb Supply Chain Meeting to Focus on Importance of Two-way Communication

Establishing good communication links in the lamb supply chain is the focus of a meeting to be held at Sir David Kinloch's Parks of Aldie Farm at Fossoway near Kinross on August 20th.

Farm grieve, Alan Sim is looking forward to seeing how the lambs he draws look and grade on the hook at Scotbeef later in the week. It will be the first time he has hosted a meeting of the Central Scotland Lamb Supply Chain Group at the 630 acre Parks of Aldie Farm, but sharing of information and hearing from guest speakers such as SAC vet Caroline Robinson, followed by a visit to Scotbeef is something he hopes to learn from.

The meetings, funded by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), Farm Stock (Scotland) Ltd and the Scottish Government Skills Development Scheme and facilitated by SAC Consulting (part of SRUC), aim to enhance collaboration and communication in the supply chain, and improve productivity and profitability at all levels.

Mr Sim, who has had operational responsibility for the farm for the last 20 years, runs 930 Scotch Mule ewes on the farm which is mostly down to grass with about 80 acres of spring barley and 16 acres of forage rape. There are also 240 hoggs, which are bought in as ewe lambs from UA and Caledonian Marts in Stirling.

He has used Suffolk tups in the past, plus a Hampshire, but he is now leaning towards Suffolk cross Beltex and Texel cross Beltex tups in order to get as many E and U grades as possible. He said: "There is still a place for Suffolks and I still use them for their early finishing attributes, but I have definitely seen better grades since putting the Beltex through them.”

Lambing percentage at scanning was back up to the farm's usual average of 195% this year after a problem with fluke in 2012/13.

He tries to finish as many lambs as possible off grass and this year, by the end of July, he had sold 228 lambs compared to just 75 by the same time last year. "The weather and grass has been much better this year and we have seen a huge difference in growth rates," added Mr Sim.

The ewes are split into two lambings as his shed only holds about 450. The first 250 lamb in ten days from 20th March thanks to flushing ewes on fresh grass and the use of teaser rams. Lambs from this batch start selling the first week of July and are usually all away by the end of August, taking advantage of the better early prices.

The remainder of the ewes lamb from 8th April onwards and lambs are sold right through to February off grass, then forage rape with some home-grown oats, beet pulp and protein. The tail end are housed and are all sold by the end of February. Mr Sim prefers to feed oats as they can be safely fed free access and he thinks they do better on oats rather than barley. He has a surplus of oats from last year and the barley grown this year will be sold for feed while some straw is retained and some sold to neighbours.

Mr Sim weighs every lamb at weaning and he splits them into three lots - under 35kg, 35 to 38kg and over 38kg. He said: "This worked really well last year, I was able to manage each group slightly differently and achieve the target liveweight of 43 to 44kg with nearly all the lambs."

The most recent batch of 50 lambs sold through Farm Stock to Scotbeef had mainly U grades and several E grades, which is fairly standard for the farm. Mr Sim believes the secret to maximising income is to take the lambs to the heaviest weight possible without being penalised but keeping the grades high and fat cover down. He is interested to hear from Brian Robb of Farm Stock and Bill McKinnon of Scotbeef exactly what their requirements are and how best to achieve the specification.

Guest speakers at Parks of Aldie will include Vet Caroline Robinson from SAC Perth, Sheep Specialist Rhidian Jones of SAC Consulting, and Brian Robb from Farm Stock (Scotland) – Fieldsman. The group will view the selected lambs from Parks of Aldie later that week at Scotbeef, Bridge of Allan.

Michael Blanche, QMS Knowledge Transfer Specialist (pictured) said: “I would encourage farmers to attend these meetings as they offer a great opportunity to learn from industry experts and gain a valuable insight into the supply chain.”

To see the sheep unit at Parks of Aldie on August 20th and hear from the above experts, please register your attendance with Kirsty at QMS on 0131 472 4040 or email info@qmscotland.co.uk

For those who would like to attend the Scotbeef session on Thursday 21st, starting at 9.30 for 10am, please pre-register your attendance with Raymond Crerar at the meeting on Wednesday.

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