As tupping time approaches, the health and nutrition of ewes and tups will be under discussion at the next Nithsdale Monitor Farm meeting at Clonhie, near Penpont on Thursday 5th October.
At the meeting, which is free to attend and starts at 11am, host farmer Andrew Marchant will give an update on the farm’s activities since the last meeting and share his plans for his flock for the breeding season ahead.
“We currently have 975 ewes and are keen to strengthen the genetics in our breeding flock so we use a combination of Aberfield tups - to boost maternal sire traits - and Beltex/Texel tups, for good terminal sire traits,” said Andrew Marchant.
The 18 tups at Clonhie, which include a new Innovis Highlander tup bought by the Marchants earlier this year, will be turned out on 10 November and Mr Marchant is keen to see how they perform.
At the meeting next week, Alistair Padkin from Nithsdale vets will give a practical demonstration using one of the tups from Clonhie and highlight how to carry out a tup MOT before the breeding season starts. He will be joined by sheep advisor and monitor farm facilitator Rhidian Jones, who will outline the importance of having ewes in the optimal condition score before they go to the tup.
Mr Jones said: “The correct nutrition of ewes lays the foundation for a successful and profitable flock, and knowing how to condition score is the simplest and most effective way to assess if you are feeding your ewes correctly.
“Ewes in the run up to tupping should be between condition score 3 and 3.5. During pregnancy, the ewe’s condition score should be maintained at around 3 in order to maximise their scanning percentage.”
Ensuring the ewes have adequate nutrition throughout the winter is key and Clonhie and have sown four hectares of kale and swedes for the first time this May, to supplement winter grazing and reduce the need for feeding concentrates.
The farm has also developed a feed budget, which they will share at the meeting next week, which shows how much grass the farm is likely to have over the winter, in addition to the winter crops.
Clonhie currently operates both an early and late lambing system, with 150 Texel cross ewes lambing inside in February and the main flock of North Cheviot / Lleyn cross ewes lambing outside in late April. With no additional labour on the farm, Mr Marchant needs a system that is both cost effective, and makes the best use of his time. The farm has therefore conducted a cost comparison of both systems to provide guidance for the future, the results of which will be shared at the next meeting.
The Marchants currently sell their prime lambs through Vivers and aim for a deadweight of 19-19.5kg. They are keen to see if they could finish their lambs quicker and ran some small-scale comparison trials with their 2017 lamb crop to see if there was a difference in growth rates and weaning weights in castrated lambs compared to those left entire. They also looked at how lambs offered a creep feed compared to those without access to creep.
Additionally, the weights of lambs given a Cobalt B12 injection were also monitored over the summer and compared with other lambs that didn’t receive the supplement. The results of the trial will be shared at the meeting.
The Nithsdale monitor farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. The aim of the programme, which is funded by Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.
Monitor farm meetings are open and free for all farmers to attend. The meeting at Clonhie meeting will begin at 11am and finish at 2.30pm, with lunch provided.
To book your place please contact Judith Hutchison, by 12 noon on Monday 2 October on 07718 919055 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk.