Meticulous Preparation key to primestock Show Success:By Jonathan Long

THERE”S MORE to producing primestock show winning lambs than simply feeding them and holding them in the showring, according to Worcs producer Andrew Bishop.

“Minimal handling, plenty of lambs and a passion for success are what’s needed to produce top quality lambs to pick up championship tickets,” reckons Mr Bishop. He hopes to add success at this year’s primestock shows to numerous summer show prime lamb championships having exhibited the champion pen of butchers” lambs at Smithfield 2002.

 Mr Bishop, who farms at Colwall, Malvern, says handling lambs too frequently means they become stressed, spend less time eating and fail to achieve their optimum condition. “The aim is to have lambs just right on the day, it’s no good having them fit a fortnight before the show.” Many primestock showmen alter feeding regimes regularly to ensure lambs are in optimum condition come showtime, but Mr Bishop sells any lambs fit too soon to his regular butcher customers.

“We’ve got 60 March and April-born lambs in the shed all of an equal standard, so having a few lambs that go over the top isn’t a problem. Every one of those 60 lambs will be an E grade when it”s killed, but there will be some heavy and some lighter lambs.”

Preparation of lambs for the three major primestock shows which Mr Bishop and his wife Becky will be exhibiting at this year has been going on all year. “Every time we’ve selected lambs for sale we’ve pulled back the best ones with a view to making them our show lambs,” he says.

“Preparation really started when we selected the tups that sired these lambs.” At the beginning of September, they had about 300 wether lambs selected over the summer months from which to make their final selection.

“We narrowed it down to 60 and have a further 30-40 reserves to call on should anything go wrong.”

These back-up lambs are still at grass receiving the same 16% concentrate from Wynnstay Feeds as housed lambs. Both housed and outside lambs are fed ad-lib. “In previous years, we’ve left all our lambs out at grass until the show, but last year we were so short of grass we had to house lambs to finish them.

 “This year we’ve housed them because we have too much

“This is a bit of trial and error for us, but we hope having them housed before the show will reduce the stress lambs suffer when they go to the shows.”

 With lambs heading to the National Primestock Show, the Welsh Winter Fair and to Smithfield, the Bishops need about 30 lambs to cover all their entries. “Some of these are pure Texel, some are pure Beltex and the rest are Beltex-cross and Texel-cross. But none of them will be ewe lambs.”

Mr Bishop says that while some primestock enthusiasts show ewe lambs just to win and then don”t sell them or buy them back in, it”s not a practice he believes in.

“Every lamb we show will be sold to kill – it”s what the shows are supposed to be about. Our ewe lambs are too valuable as future breeding stock to kill them.”

 Entries have been made in both trimmed and untrimmed classes this year and without the time to dress lambs himself Mr Bishop will be calling on professionals to give his lambs that showring shine.

“We’ve 1800 ewes and 150 cattle to deal with, so I can’t spare time to dress lambs myself. We’ll go through all lambs before the National and weigh them, we’re aiming for 40-42kg lambs. Then we”ll pull off the top draw for Smithfield and match the rest up for the other shows.

“They’ll be washed in a strong soda solution before they’re dressed and then it’s down to someone else to make them look that bit special,” he says. PRIMESTOCK PREPARATION * Minimise stress * Plenty of choice * Consistent feeding * Dressed to shine