Ahead of the game
TRYING to maintain flock margins when returns from sheep are so woeful is a challenge.
It is made even harder when the one cheap resource producers have – grass – is sheep sick permanent pasture. But what can producers do? This is the question Stephen Hart of Cross Farm, Wallingford, Oxon, who hosted NSA South Sheep 1999, asked visitors.
Being profitable has to remain a key objective, said Mr Hart. "It is a challenging time. We have 200 acres of pasture, banks and parkland which are more or less stuck with sheep, so we just have to hope the good times return."
Mr Hart told visitors that, in the face of this hard time, producers had to seek out objectives.
"Increasing prolificacy in our flock was the best thing we did, followed by closing the flock and then eradicating both foot-rot and scrapie."
Mr Harts flock consists of 1000 Hartline ewes, a breed he developed, which have averaged over 190% lambs reared in the last five years. Average gross margin has been above £61/ewe, apart from last year when margins were down to £37/ewe.
But other problems do exist. "We have problems with grass growth in summer and some of the land type in use. "When I value areas of the parkland, with its awkward shapes, hedges, shaded areas and troubles from acorn poisoning and ragwort, I think its worth minus £20/acre compared with my best lfields at £70/acre."