14 May 1999

Breed switch eases system changeover

SWITCHING breeds has eased the transition from open to closed flock for one Northumberland farm.

The Nelless family, who run 800 breeding ewes at Thistleyhaugh, Long Horsley, near Morpeth, reckon that they can now concentrate on reaping the full rewards of running a closed breeding flock.

This is the first year that they wont be buying-in any replacement females, having changed breeds in the mid 1990s from North of England Mules to MV accredited Lleyns.

Three-quarters of the flock are now Lleyns. All are bred pure to provide sufficient ewe lambs to make the flock self-sufficient and independent of buying-in replacements. Only stock rams will be bought. The farm is run by Henry Nelless, his wife Enid and sons Angus and Duncan. The family is convinced that sheep health is one of the major advantages of establishing a closed flock. "Knowing the background of your sheep and bringing ewes into the flock which have been reared on your own system is a big advantage. We are eliminating the risk of abortion and are testing all rams for scrapie," says Mr Nelless.

During the transition, when only a few females were introduced to the flock, there have been fewer foot problems.

"This is the first year when we wont have to buy-in any females. Apart from the health advantages we are no longer at the mercy of the market on replacement costs. And switching from Mules has not meant sacrificing production," he says.

Also a group of 100 Mules eat a big bale of silage a day. The same number of Lleyns eat half that.

"We scanned at 205% this year and are achieving excellent carcass lambs for mid-summer marketing, deadweight at 18-20kg," says Duncan Nelless. &#42