22nd May 2014

Maximising Lamb Growth Rates a Focus at Lamb Supply Chain Group Visits

A series of free summer farm visits, open to all lamb producers, will take place in the coming weeks organised by the Borders, South-West and Central Lamb Supply Chain Groups.

The visits are part of a series of workshops and meetings aimed at developing a more competitive, profitable Scottish sheep sector. The Groups are taking forward the key findings of a project undertaken during the 2012/13 lamb marketing season. 

The main themes of the forthcoming farm visits will be maximising lamb growth rates in early season through good grazing and flock health management; and optimal weights for selling lambs.

The first farm visit is being hosted by Graham Lofthouse who runs 450 ewes and 120 ewe hoggs, as well as 87 spring calving suckler cows, on approximately 300 acres (121 ha) at Bankhouse at Stow, near Galashiels.

Mr Lofthouse runs the farm business with part time assistance from his parents, Wilma and Bert. The limited farm size has prompted Mr Lofthouse to look at systems that increase kilos of meat produced per hectare.

A key part of his success in achieving this has been the subdivision of fields into small one hectare paddocks that the sheep graze rotationally on short one to two day shifts in the summer. This approach has increased grass dry matter production by at least 21% when compared to set stocking.

The flock at Bankhouse is predominantly Easycare cross ewes, and a reducing number of Texel crosses, put to Suffolk and Easycare tups. The ewes start lambing on 1st April and all male lambs are left entire.

Finished lambs are sold direct to Scotbeef at an average of 21.7kg deadweight between late June and January. Mr Lofthouse believes that Nature (maternal selection and choosing the right tups) and Nurture (nutrition) = Performance. 

Guest speakers at the Bankhouse farm visit include Michael Blanche, QMS Knowledge Transfer Specialist, who will be speaking on “Getting the most from your grass”; Heather Stevenson, Veterinary Investigation Officer, SAC Consulting, Dumfries speaking on “Flock health and effective trace element supplementation” and Jonny Williams, Livestock Procurement Officer, Farm Stock (Scotland) speaking on “The optimum weight for selling lambs based on last year’s Farm Stock Scotland results”.

The meetings are being funded by 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.

Michael Blanche, QMS Knowledge Transfer Specialist, said the visits will offer farmers a great opportunity to gain a valuable insight into some very well run flocks that gets results through attention to detail.

“During the visit we will cover how to measure grass production and how the rotational system has improved stocking rate and lamb growth rates. Two groups of lambs will be weighed before the meeting to calculate growth rate from birth and we will also discuss flock health issues including worms, fluke and trace element supplementation.”

Iain Riddell of SAC Consulting, part of SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), is facilitator for the programme of meetings.  

“The Lofthouses have also succeeded in reducing lamb losses on the farm to a very low level and during the visit we will look at the role played by careful ewe selection in reducing lamb losses.

“It would be helpful for the discussion part of the visit if those who are planning to come along could assess their own lamb daily liveweight gain results from birth to around eight weeks old for comparison.”

To register your attendance please contact Kirsty at QMS on 0131 472 4040 or email info@qmscotland.co.uk with your name, address and telephone number, stating which of the visits you would like to attend.

Dates and venues for the farm visits (1.30pm – 4.30pm) are:

Borders Group – Graham Lofthouse, Bankhouse, Stow – 27th May

South West Group – Colin Mair,  Montgomerieston, Dalrymple, Ayrshire  – 28th May at

Central Group – James Hutton Institute farm, Hartwood, Shotts – 10th June

Sign up for the latest news and views