The 2017 winner of the AHDB Beef & Lamb Better Returns Programme Improved Flock Award for Lleyn sheep is the Thistleyhaugh flock owned by the Nelless family, at Thistleyhaugh Farm, Northumberland. This award is presented to the English Signet performance recorded flock that makes the greatest improvement in the breeding potential of the lamb crop during the previous year. Read more [Here]
Lleyn sheep producers will be able to select animals for their resistance to roundworm, based on an estimated breeding value (EBV). ¬†[More]
Please find details of the Pair of Hogg/yearling ewe show and sale which will be held at NSA Welsh Sheep on Tuesday 16th¬†May 2017 at Llwynbedw, Talybont on Usk, Brecon.
See Rules & Classes¬†[Here]
Get the entry form¬†[Here]
The National Young Stars Committee is proud to announce the launch of its third event which will yet again showcase the industry‚Äôs future talent. The event is run by the Young Stars Committee in association with the Three Counties Agricultural Society, held at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern and sponsored by the Allflex Group.
In 2017, the event shall take place on the 23rd¬†August and will feature more than 150 young enthusiasts (aged 8-24 years old) competing in beef, dairy, sheep, pig, butcher and auctioneer sections which will include a variety of competitive tasks.
We would like to invite you to organise a team (or more if you would prefer)¬†to compete at the National Young Stars event 2017. This would be a great opportunity to promote your breed society, particularly among a large group that represent the next generation in agriculture.
Teams competing in the beef, sheep, dairy and pig competitions will be judged on their team work, stock judging, handling and presentation skills, as well as their team work and knowledge of the industry. Meanwhile, competitors in the young butcher and young auctioneer competitions will compete individually, with butchers having to showcase their skills cutting meat from three species, producing cuts for a family of four in three hours, as well as demonstrating their knowledge of the meat trade and recognition of appropriate health and safety as required. The young auctioneers will be tested on their valuation skills, ability to identify crops and knowledge of the industry, as well as being asked to prepare a written essay on a subject given to them prior to the event.
Competitors in the beef and dairy sections must be aged 14-24, while the sheep sections are open to those aged 8-24, with the pig section aimed at 8-18 year olds. The butchers and auctioneers competitions are for those aged 18-24.
Please find the entry forms located via this web link:¬†http://nationalyoungstars.com/¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†
The forms are complete with event guidelines and timings should you require further information. The entries should be filled out and posted to National Young Stars, Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR13 6NW combined with a cheque to enter the team/individual.¬†
If you have any more queries about the section or event as a whole please do not hesitate to contact myself or the Event Chairman Neil Lloyd on 07970 061796. For more information head to¬†www.nationalyoungstars.comor follow us on:
Facebook at National Young Stars
Show Support, Three Counties¬†
The newly elected President, Richard Cole would like to invite you his inaugural charity fund raising event.¬† Richard has chosen to support Sepsis UK Trust, during his year as President .¬† For further details on the Trust please click the following link www.sepsistrust.org
Every year in the UK there are 150,000 cases of Sepsis, resulting in a staggering 44,000 deaths ‚Äď more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined!
We are seeking teams of four to join to join us for the above event, taking place at the Pavilion on the County Showground on Thursday 13th April at 7.30pm (bar open from 6.30pm).¬† The winning team will be given ¬£100 to donate to a charity of their choice.
[Here] is an application form, please feel free to enter as many teams as you like and help spread the word, please pass entry forms on to friends, family and work colleagues, so that he can raise as much money as possible for the Sepsis UK Trust.
Any queries please do not hesitate to contact me
Sue Latham,¬†Events & Market Manager
Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society¬†Show Office
County Show Ground ¬†01437 764331
The National Sheep Association (NSA) has welcomed new movement reporting rules for farmers in England as ‚Äėa step in the right direction‚Äô and urges all sheep keepers to consider how to make the most of them over the coming months.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says:¬†‚ÄúThe move from the five-mile rule to a 10-mile rule will be a huge win for many sheep farmers, allowing separate holdings to be merged in some scenarios, reducing the reporting and recording burden for moving stock, and removing some of the difficulties created by standstill rules. While solving many of the current complexities, the new system will take time to implement and producers will have to wait to be contacted by Defra/APHA as the changes are rolled out across England by late summer 2017 ‚Äď but I urge all sheep keepers to get their head around the changes now. They need to establish if they want to merge holdings, and how this will affect future eartag orders. I‚Äôd also urge producers to consider if the new rules for temporary land use affect them.‚ÄĚ
NSA considers the changes to be positive in the main, and is also pleased to see a shorter timeline that originally planned for the changes (12 months instead of two years). This is of particular benefit as Defra has promised a full scale review of the current six-day standstill situation as the next stage of work in cutting red tape for the sector.
Mr Stocker adds:¬†‚ÄúSome individuals may not find all the changes to be of benefit, but this is definitely a step in the right direction for the industry as a whole. The sheep sector is in desperate need of a level of tolerance on EID and movement reporting but work by NSA to push for this has been met with resistance within Defra due to the EU‚Äôs unease with certain UK derogations within the legislation. We know Defra has been keen to remove derogations related to sheep identification in pursuit of higher tolerances and, while removing the ability for farmers to batch report moves between different holdings within the same business would have been impractical with the current five-mile rule, removing it once we have the extension to a 10-mile radius in place will negate the need to report individual numbers for the majority of moves. NSA recognises the removal of the batch reporting exemption presents a potentially onerous task for producers who rely on it for longer distance moves, but if it results in tolerances that reduce cross compliance penalties then it may be a price worth paying.‚ÄĚ
NSA recognises its work on behalf of sheep farmers must continue, to ensure Defra secures the promised tolerances at EU level, and to implement a more proportionate system as a result of the standstill review.
Mr Stocker concludes:¬†‚ÄúThe industry needs to see an end to cross compliance penalties related to innocent mistakes. These penalties cause financial hardship as well as anxiety and stress for producers who‚Äôve fallen foul of the system. Overall we still need to be pushing to reduce red tape and burdensome controls overall, but we also need a demonstrable level of disease control and to be able to reasonably comply in order to benefit from CAP funds.‚ÄĚ
Surveys have been commissioned by relevant bodies including the MLC, MAFF and now DEFRA and EBLEX. The surveys have been sent out as postal questionnaires directly to sheep keepers in 1971, 1987, 1996, 2003. The results of the most recent survey in 2012 have now been released having undergone analysis.
The Lleyn has continued to increase in numbers, with about half a million ewes found in 2012. Half were mated pure and the rest to a variety of ram breeds. Lleyn rams were mated to half a million ewes. The Lleyn is now the largest non-hill breed in Britain. ¬†[Read More]
A Perthshire farming couple have been congratulated by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) this week for their longstanding commitment to raising awareness of the importance of performance recording in Scotland.
Neil and Debbie McGowan, who farm at Incheoch near Alyth, were presented with the Johnston Carmichael Trophy at NSA Highland Sheep in recognition of their dedication to improving their flock through the use of EBVs (Estimated Breeding Values).
As well as being well-respected livestock farmers, the McGowans are also very willing to embrace innovation and developed their own system of recording maternal traits to support EBVs.¬†
They were among the first in Scotland to opt to sell their pedigree rams from the farm, with the focus very much on communicating the animals‚Äô EBVs (Estimated Breeding Values).
The couple developed their own maternal recording system to rigorously select the right genetics for home-bred replacements¬† which supports the conventional EBVs. They now performance record 1,100 of their ewes which are mainly Lleyns with a few Texels. The couple also run 220 cows on the 1,200 acres at Incheoch.
Neil McGowan has recently won a Nuffield Scholarship to study the management of large-scale seed stock breeding programmes for cattle and sheep.
As part of the scholarship he plans to travel to New Zealand to see how performance-recorded flocks - sometimes extending to 20,000 ewes - are managed there.
Johnny Mackey, Head of Industry Development, QMS said: ‚ÄúThe McGowans are extremely worthy winners of the trophy and have championed the use of performance recording for a very long time.
‚ÄúTheir family-run sheep enterprise is an excellent example of how EBVs can enhance a business and also how to market genetics to both the pedigree and commercial sheep farmer.‚ÄĚ
Neil McGowan said: "We are really delighted to have received this award. The trophy has a lot of names on it of people who have inspired and helped us along the way. It‚Äôs great to see that since those early days, recording sheep has become more mainstream and is now much more accepted and understood than for those early pioneers."
Published by the Midland Farmer
A new way of measuring roundworm resistance pioneered by Lleyn sheep breeders could have widespread benefits for commercial lamb producers.
Commercial flock masters could benefit from harnessing the genetics of the Lleyn sheep ‚Äď with bloodlines selected because they offer built-in resistance to roundworm, according to early results from a ground-breaking scientific study.
Initial results from the study appear to confirm the long held belief among some breeders that certain lambs within a group are more genetically resistant to roundworm ‚Äď a parasite which can determine whether a flock makes a healthy profit or a substantial loss.
Although still early days, the experiment looks extremely promising, says Herefordshire producer Edward Collins, who is also secretary of the Performance Recorded Lleyn Breeders Group (PRLB). ‚ÄúWe are definitely seeing lambs that are showing more resistance than others.‚ÄĚ
Based at Bearwood Farm, Leominster, Mr Collins established the Bearwood Lleyn Flock in 1998. It now totals 400 ewes. He mainly uses Lleyn rams and the majority of lambs going for meat meet the R3L classification or better with an average carcase weight of 20 kg.
The impact of roundworms on sheep production in the UK is an industry-wide concern, with the traditional use of drenches to combat the issue under threat from the increasing prevalence of anthelmintic resistance. But assessing resistance hasn‚Äôt always been easy.
Roundworm-infected lambs are subject to reduced feed intakes and poorer conversion of feed, resulting in reductions of live weight gain of up to 60-100%. Infectious roundworm larvae are found on blades of grass in pasture, where they are ingested by sheep and lambs.
In some sheep, roundworm populations in the gut will grow and reproduce relatively unopposed. In other individuals which are resistant to roundworm, the growth and reproduction of worms in the gut is less successful, and hence fewer eggs are shed.
PRLB members have long recognised the quality of their sheep ‚Äď including the belief that some individual animals were resistant to roundworm. But to promote the Lleyn more widely, scientific evidence was needed to select sheep which possessed this trait for breeding.
The current approach to measuring worm resistance in sheep is the measurement of Faecal Egg Counts (FEC). The technique involves exposing lambs to worms on ‚Äėdirty‚Äô pasture before and then extracting a faecal sample before sending it away for analysis.
However, uptake of the technology has been relatively low. Lack of awareness among commercial producers, concerns over the level of worm challenge required and complications of sample collection are all see as barriers to uptake among breeders.
In conjunction with Glasgow Veterinary School and KN Consulting, the Performance Recorded Lleyn Breeders Group drew up a proposal for a research project funded by the EBLEX Farm Innovation Grant (FIG).
The proposal was to develop a method of improving detection and uptake of genetic resistance to roundworms in the UK national sheep flock. It revolved around testing sheep saliva for parasite specific antibody (IgA) levels as a novel indicator of worm resistance.
Saliva IgA levels are seen as a better reflection of roundworm resistance because they reflect the worm challenge over a period of months whereas a faecal egg count only measures the current level of adult worm infection in an animal.
This means that the actual level of worm infection at the point of saliva sample collection is less important than when relying on a faecal sample and does not need an adult worm infection to the be present. Saliva sample collection is also easier to integrate into flock management practices.
Another attraction is that equipment for sample collection is readily available. It consists of a dental swab to absorb the saliva and a pair of forceps which are used to manoeuvre and hold the swab. Finally, a plastic container is needed to hold the swab after saliva collection.
Some 3000 saliva and FEC samples were collected across 12 PRLB members‚Äô flocks from June to December 2014. Preliminary analysis of IgA levels yielded interesting results ‚Äď confirming an expected relationship between FEC and IgA levels.
Animals with higher IgA levels tended to have lower FEC values ‚Äď and were therefore perceived as being more resistant to roundworm infection. IgA measurements have since been used to produce preliminary Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs).
There were no unfavourable correlations found between IgA and production traits. This indicates that selection for resistance using IgA levels would not lead to any reduction in animal performance.
The EBLEX funded study indicates that IgA could offer itself as a feasible alternative, or improvement to the current FEC system. Additional research is required to predict the response to selection using salivary IgA and to incorporate salivary IgA into selection indices.
Further work is already planned, and the Performance Recorded Lleyn¬† Breeders Group intend to collect a similar number of samples again in 2015 ‚Äď making this one of the biggest datasets of this kind anywhere in the world.
From a handful of farmers just two years ago, the Performance Recorded Lleyn Breeders Group now has 22 members across the length and breadth of the country ‚Äď from Perth to Devon and Norfolk to Ceredigion ‚Äď including flock masters who have anything from 50 to 3000 ewes.
As well as roundworm resistance, the Lleyn ewe has other qualities too, says Mr Collins. ‚ÄúShe is prolific, a good mother and rears two lambs easily,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúAnd with the correct breeding, Lleyn lambs will finish off grass without the use of expensive concentrate.‚ÄĚ
Mobile: 07970 015186
Peregrine Aubrey‚Äôs flock of Lleyns based in Kingsbridge, Devon has been recognised by EBLEX as the Most
¬†Improved Flock of Signet recorded Lleyn sheep in England for 2015.¬†
The award is presented by the EBLEX Better Returns Programme (BRP) to the recorded flock that shows the greatest genetic gain for commercial characteristics over a 12-month period. There is a separate award for each of ten UK breeds.
Peregrine has been farming at Eastergrounds Farm since 1986, where he originally kept a flock of 150 commercial sheep, a suckler beef herd and grew corn. All three were small scale enterprises and the main target was to optimise headage payments. In 2005, when they changed to an acreage system a major decision was made.
‚ÄúThis is when I decided to specialise in sheep, giving me the opportunity to do one enterprise to the highest standard rather than jack of all trades for three,‚ÄĚ Peregrine explained.
‚ÄúI sold all the beef and reduced the corn acreage, focusing on grass instead and now have grassland ranging from permanent pasture to relatively young leys on our hilly, lowland farm.‚ÄĚ
Around 1998 Peregrine had started to introduce Lleyn genetics to the flock. The Lleyn is a high performing lowland ewe that is resilient and thrifty with easy-care attributes, whilst being highly productive.
Initially he bought some registered pedigree ewes from flocks such as Nick Tavenor, Dewi Ellis, and Edward Collins. He then bred his own replacements to increase his numbers gradually.
Since concentrating on sheep production he has established his own New Zealand Suffolk flock, and now has 50 ewes that run alongside his pure Lleyn‚Äôs. All sheep on the farm are managed and recorded on a commercial basis. Of the 700 Lleyns, the bottom tier are crossed to a New Zealand Suffolk to produce males for prime lamb, while the females sell well as crossbred commercial breeders.
Turning to performance recording to develop own lamb production
Whilst building sheep numbers, Peregrine started recording manually on paper to identify which ewes were performing well and ensure those ewes were retained, culling out the troublemakers.¬†
‚ÄúThis was clearly only playing with sheep improvement. In order to gain knowledge of the sheep you are producing you have to record individual performance in far greater depth and have the ability to analyse the data in a more sophisticated manner,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúIn 2009 when I saw that compulsory sheep Electronic Identification (EID) was on the horizon I started recording more formally and ¬†invested in a software package. I like the ability to ask the database questions in order to develop my system and analyse my data. The service provider is excellent and an efficient computer programme has now become an essential part of any breeding venture.‚ÄĚ
Peregrine, an enthusiast of the New Zealand lamb production system, is consciously promoting his own recorded stock reared from a forage based diet.
‚ÄúNew Zealandis breeding sheep with genetics that seem to make a difference in any system they are introduced to.
"It is important to realise that breeding better sheep should be done with the mind not the heart or eye, and should always focus on the needs of the end user i.e. the commercial sheep farmer," he said.
He has invested in equipment to aid time efficiency so that he can now sort whilst handling by any data criteria. To Peregrine it was obvious that this path was a facilitator to Signet data recording and evaluation, which he started in 2011, providing a significant amount of back data.
Focusing on Individual Breeding Values
Studying the eight week and 21 week weights alongside maternal values and faecal egg counts with interest, Peregrine‚Äôs focus is on mature size and increased muscle thickness.
‚ÄúThrough the use of ultrasound scanning I can identify that animals are getting more muscular; an advantage providing it doesn‚Äôt increase lambing difficulties. The easy care attributes are essential and must be maintained alongside improved performance,‚ÄĚ he confirmed.
‚ÄúWith positive correlation for lamb growth rate and mature size, I think it is imperative to maintain the overall efficiency of the ewe.‚ÄĚ
Management of the flock and targeting sales
Using single sire natural mating groups his Lleyn‚Äôs achieve an average conception rate of 2.00, lambing indoors from March, with ewe lambs following the main group in April. All ewe lambs retained are put to the ram, anything not pregnant as a shearling is culled.
Using a colour coded system prior to lambing he can easily detect the higher ranked sheep and can confirm that they appear to present fewer issues at lambing.
"It would seem possible that the data picks up some positive practical attributes."
Ram lambs are only left entire from the best figured sheep; everything else is castrated at birth.¬† Female replacements are selected from middle to high ranking sheep.
Lambs are weaned at 14 weeks of age and surplus lambs are sold deadweight by October, saving the grass for the ewes. Peregrine finds he continues to select bigger, heavier lambs quicker and puts this down to both genetics and improved management.
His main objective is to sell both males and females to commercial producers for reasonable prices, making sure that there is always superior value for money. Keeping records of past sheep sales, he uses Signet information combined with computer software tools to check he can offer non-related rams to the same customers, or rams to customers who have purchased breeding females.
Animals are all sold privately off the farm. In order to reach out to more people, Peregrine is in the process of developing his own website.
He has a high turnover of stock rams, using newcomers on plenty of ewes in their first season. If figures start to decrease he doesn‚Äôt use them again, but understanding the reasons behind the figures and what makes them shift is a constant battle.¬†
It is hoped that using homebred rams may reduce the chances of their EBVs dropping, but this does nothing to enhance genetic variation. In 2013 he bought four new rams in, two did well under Signet evaluation so Peregrine kept some of their male progeny. Last season he used the nine best homebred rams, and is constantly on the lookout for fresh blood.
‚ÄúKeeping the flock young with a high number of female replacements aids genetic improvement. Equally anything that is performing under par in a practical way, regardless of EBV, is culled,‚ÄĚ Peregrine said.¬†
‚ÄúA few original ewes have gained high EBVs despite being from unknown parentage.¬†
‚ÄúThe animals that do well in your local environment will take your program forward, these individuals need to be identified in any breeding program. I believe this can only be done through high level cross flock statistical analyses,‚ÄĚ he concludes.
Commenting on the win, Signet Breeding Services Manager Sam Boon said: ‚ÄúRates of genetic improvement in Signet recorded flocks are at an all-time high. The difference between the best high EBV breeding stock and average animals is increasing year on year.¬†
‚ÄúThis means commercial producers have more to gain when investing in rams with superior genetics. Pedigree breeders can capitalise on these differences too and this is exactly what Peregrine has done. The improvement in the genetic merit of his flock is clear and he is to be congratulated on his achievement.‚ÄĚ¬†
NSA urges members to remember that new rules for sheep identification come in on Thursday 1st¬†January 2015. The change that affects sheep keepers in¬†all parts of the UK¬†is that ewes from the historic flock (those tagged before 2010) will need to be individually listed on a movement record from 1st¬†January unless they are moving directly to an abattoir or via a red market. This is¬†not¬†a requirement to retag older ewes and rams with full EID, but many producers may make that decision if it makes it easier for them to move older animals either between farms or via markets.¬†¬†But please note some auction markets (including all markets in Scotland) are asking for animals in the historic flock to carry full EID as a condition of sale.¬†If you are not planning to EID tag older animals anyway, please check with your auctioneer what they require for their sales
Also from 1st¬†January 2015, sheep keepers in¬†England¬†are no longer permitted to use non-EID tags for lambs and must use a single EID slaughter tag in lambs not being retained for breeding. Lambs born before 1st¬†January are still permitted to carry a non-EID tag and there is no requirement to retag these animals. Use of the non-EID slaughter tag is still permitted in¬†Wales¬†until January 1st¬†2016, but NSA urges sheep keepers in Wales to be very careful about the tagging decisions they make in 2015. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says:¬†‚ÄúIt is has always been important to use the non-EID slaughter tag in prime lambs only and not in store lambs, but this will be even more important for Welsh farmers in 2015, as they will be the only nation still using the non-EID slaughter tag and will reduce their selling options if they use plastic tags in lambs that may be bought for further finishing.‚ÄĚ¬†
The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society's Livestock Committee have contacted the Society to inform that for 2015 they are changing the way in which exhibitors enter sheep at the Show.
You may be aware that last year the Society was more than one hundred pens over-subscribed by the close of entries for the Show. ¬†However. after putting in place several measures to deal with the situation, we found that over 850 exhibits did not come forward at the event.
The Society has always taken the stance that anyone who wishes to exhibit at the show should be allowed to do so, and we are reluctant to see any exhibitors turned away. ¬†However, the Livestock Committee felt that something has to be done to cope with the over-subscription of pens and poor attendance seen at the 2014 Show. ¬†Therefore the Society has decided to introduce a deposit system for sheep entries this year, whereby an exhibitor will be charged an extra ¬£30 deposit per exhibit on top of their entry fee. ¬†If the exhibit is forward at the Show or if the exhibitor cancels prior to 1st July, the money will be refunded in full.
The aim of this new system is to encourage exhibitors to be more realistic with the number of sheep they enter and, furthermore, inform the show of their absence in good time prior to the Show. ¬†The Show hopes that you will support this new entry process, which has been successfully implemented in the Cattle Section for many years now.
Why MVA can be devastating? Click Here
The Society attended the NSA Scot Sheep Event at Quixwood, Berwickshire. ¬†It was a very wet day but it did not keep the crowds away. ¬†The Society had a fantastic display of 6 Lleyn ewes with 12 Texel cross lambs. ¬†The lambs were born in early March with an average weight of 36kg. This large pen of commercial sheep drew much attention all day. ¬†Thank you to Ian Murray of Wooler who supplied the sheep for the day. ¬†Ian bought Lleyn shearling ewes from Society sales, Autumn 2013 and tupped them with his own home bred Texel rams. ¬†He has been pleased with the results and by the look of the lambs he brought to this event we could see why.
Organic Sheepskins www.organicsheepskins.com. will tan breeders sheepskins for them.
We will have a trade stand at both The Small Holder Show, Builth 17 ‚Äď 18th May and also NSA Sheep Show, Malvern 30th July if you would like to let your members know and we would be happy to talk to them or visit the web site.
Macaroni flock wins Most Improved Flock Award for the Lleyn breed
The Macaroni flock, owned by Charles and his son, Sam Phillips of Eastleach, Gloucestershire has been recognised by EBLEX as the Most Improved Flock of Lleyn sheep in England for 2014.
The award is presented by the EBLEX Better Returns Programme (BRP) to the recorded flock that shows the greatest genetic gain for commercial characteristics over a 12-month period. There is a separate award for each of 10 UK breeds.
Organic meat producers, the Phillips family, are fourth-generation farmers and have been farming at Macaroni Farm since 1880s. They are passionate about all they produce with a lot of emphasis on wildlife conservation. Since 2009, 100 hectares (ha) have been in the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme. The farm is located in the stunning Cotswold countryside with rolling views and the river Leach runs through the farm.
They are passionate about conservation and creating the perfect habitat for wildlife to thrive. Farmlands birds have been in steady decline since the 1960s and their aim is to reverse the trend on their farm. In 2012 they were awarded a Game and Wildlife Conservation Trusts Award for their efforts in restoring the Grey Partridge.
The farm consists of 682ha, with 100ha of permanent pasture, the rest on four-year rotational leys (two years clover-rich swards, two years cereals). Due to their organic status they rely on legumes (primarily clovers, but also sainfoin and lucerne) to fix nitrogen naturally and add fertility when ploughed in as ‚Äėgreen manure‚Äô. An application of either cattle or sheep manure helps with enhancing soil nutrition and fertility building, enabling the crops to thrive, primarily growing wheat and barley.
All animals on the farm are reared naturally on herb and legume-rich pastures. The majority of their forage is silage produced from their red clover and perennial ryegrass leys. They also produce vetch and barley wholecrop silage. The lucerne and sainfoin is working well and they hope to establish more this year. They won the Mole Valley Farmers Forage for Profit Award in January this year.
Lleyn production system
They have 920 pedigree Lleyns, all of which are recorded electronically, with 160 ewes making up a nucleus flock which are performance recorded with Signet. The ewes within the nucleus are those with the highest-predicted breeding potential and their genes are passed into the wider flock through their progeny.
In addition to the nucleus flock, they use Charollais and Meatlinc rams on 580 Lleyns to provide lamb for the early market, making full use of premium prices from June through to August. The remaining ewes are mated to Lleyn sires and lamb in April. All rams used are sourced from performance-recorded flocks.
They run a spring-calving suckler herd of 100 cattle; comprising of 30 pedigree South Devons, which are performance recorded, and a commercial herd of 70 South Devon/Aberdeen Angus-cross cows. All finished beef is sold by contract to a well-known supermarket.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs extremely important that our ewes are of the highest breed standard in order for us to produce delicious lamb,‚ÄĚ Charles said.
‚ÄúOur efforts were recently rewarded when the society presented our flock of Pedigree Lleyn with the region‚Äôs ‚ÄėChampion Flock‚Äô award.‚ÄĚ
The Lleyn makes an ideal ewe, as they are not only prolific, but they also have great maternal instincts and lots of milk - a perfect ewe to rear twins.
The flock operates as a closed flock, only buying in new rams when necessary. They breed all their own replacements, avoiding health issues. They achieve a scanning percentage of just over 175 per cent, rearing 1.6 lambs per ewe, which they are aiming to improve to reach 200 per cent within five years.
There is wide variation in prolificacy in Lleyn breeding lines, which is why the Macaroni flock is taking part in a trial where DNA sampling is being used to locate major genes influencing prolificacy. This service is provided through a German company and the Phillips family are keen to see where this leads in the future.
They established the flock 18 years ago and have been recording with Signet since 2012. Since they started recording, improvements are already being seen. They adhere to a very strict cull policy and find the positives and negatives are quickly identified within the nucleus flock, through measuring weights and using ultrasound back-fat scanning. Everything on the farm is electronically tagged at birth and they invested in a system last year to enable them to be easily weighed at each treatment and data is captured automatically.
‚ÄúTo improve profitability of a flock you must be able to identify its strengths and its weaknesses, allowing productivity to be enhanced,‚ÄĚ Charles said.
Early lambing ewes are housed mid-January and lamb over a four-week period, after which they are turned out to pasture in the valley. Lambs are creep-fed from a few weeks old to ensure they get a good start. At four weeks they are moved to first-year clover leys providing clean grazing, with the aim to finish by the end of August.
The suckler herd start calving in March and continue for eight to 10 weeks. Calves are turned out within a couple of days, taking the pressure off housing.
Depending on grass availability, the April flock is housed toward the end of March and they start lambing mid-April for a month, after which they are turned straight onto clover-rich leys. After weaning at 14 weeks they are moved to silage aftermath, with the aim of finishing all lambs by the end of November.
Lleyn replacement females are bred in the Signet-recorded nucleus flock. Ewe lambs within the top 25 per cent of the flock are retained in the nucleus, with particular attention paid to their maternal traits rather than their carcase attributes.
Management pre-tupping depends on grass. In the past they have flushed ewes two to three weeks prior to tupping, but they are not convinced this is necessary. Instead they plan to put a greater emphasis on ewe body condition score to ensure ewe fitness on an individual basis.
Rams used for the pedigree flock are primarily sourced for their maternal traits and high indexes which are beneficial to the flock in the long term. Within their commercial flock carcase traits are more important and they focus on these with the Meatlinc and Charollais rams brought into the flock.
‚ÄúIt is clear that if you are breeding your own rams with exceptional figures and use these animals within your own flock, you are definitely producing higher-performing progeny,‚ÄĚ said Charles.
Any ram lambs they produce with potential to make breeding rams are carefully watched over the summer to see how they develop. Currently, they have a diverse range of bloodlines, but within a couple of years they expect to need to broaden them with new rams which offer different pedigrees. When purchasing a new ram, they like to buy direct from the breeder so they can see the family lines and other related animals.
Building sales and marketing
The majority of their pedigree Lleyns will be sold through society sales, offering both ram lambs and shearling ewes. While they have been establishing their own nucleus flock by refining breed type and index within it, this has not been their focus. However, now they are achieving their targets they feel they will have more surplus breeding stock available for sale.
They feel the data received through performance recording, alongside the data they collect with their own system, helps to assist with farm decision making and future management of the flock. The EBVs and overall index information will be considered, alongside bloodline and breed characteristics to mould the flock and progress it further in future years.
Being relatively new to recording, they are taking their time to find their way and adapting their management system to suit. They are taking part in EBLEX‚Äôs Stocktake farm benchmarking service to identify how well each enterprise is performing, analysing profitability and productivity from each venture.
Proud producers gain recognition
The Phillips family are motivated by progress and enjoy the recognition and acknowledgment when successful in their various enterprises.
Three years ago, they started their own direct meat sales business, selling around 75 lambs a year. They established their own website (www.macaronifarm.co.uk) to help their marketing and numerous awards are endorsing their produce and feeding their motivation. In the past few years they are very proud to have won the Soil Association‚Äôs ‚ÄėBest Meat Producer‚Äô 2013 from the Food & Drink Awards, two silver awards at ‚ÄėTaste of the West‚Äô in 2012 and 2013 and ‚ÄėBest Local Producer/Supplier‚Äô awarded by Cotswold Life in 2012.
Commenting on the win, Signet Breeding Services Manager Sam Boon said: ‚ÄúRates of genetic improvement in Signet-recorded flocks are at an all-time high. The difference between the best high-EBV breeding stock and average animals is increasing year on year.
‚ÄúThis means commercial producers have more to gain when investing in rams with superior genetics. Pedigree breeders can capitalise on these differences too and this is exactly what Charles and Sam have done. The improvement in the genetic merit of their flock is clear and they are to be congratulated on their achievement.‚ÄĚ
S4C TV (Freesat 120 or Sky 134) ran a feature on Dai on Monday 5th January as part of the Ffermio programme. Click¬†[Here]¬†to view the film on BBC iPlayer
The John Gittins Memorial Trophy was awarded to Dr Dai Morris for his services to the Welsh sheep industry by the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society. Dr Morris was presented at the Welsh Winter Fair. Congratulations from the Lleyn Sheep Society. ¬†Click¬†[Here]¬†to read full details