19 December 1997

Clean start gives chance to get flock formula spot-on

Getting a new sheep

enterprise right first time

is the aim for one

established Shropshire beef

and arable producer.

Jonathan Riley reports

CONTRACT milled-and-mixed rations, top quality genetics and a high health status provide the foundation for a new venture into sheep production for Howard Stanford, Upton Farm, Shifnal.

"Buying in a complete sheep enterprise meant we had the chance to buy exactly what we wanted to get the flock right," says Mr Stanford.

He bought early in the season so that ewe condition could be managed to establish three flocks of 200 shearling ewes, lambing in February, March and May.

"We opted for north country mules and Suffolk cross mules put to high index Charollais and Suffolk rams with the aim of breeding ewe replacements in the long term," says Mr Stanford.

All ewes and rams were vaccinated, foot-bathed and wormed during a quarantine period when they arrived on the farm.

"Because we have no sheep disease on the holding and have clean pasture which is worth protecting to minimise anthelmintic use in the future, we are not taking any risks with flock health." This quarantine period also allowed Mr Stanford to assess condition carefully before ewes were split into groups.

"Suffolk crosses were bought in good condition so that they could lamb in February and any thinner ewes were taken out to lamb in the later groups."

Ewes in poorest condition were selected to lamb in May and put onto stubble turnip fields with barley straw bales provided, to increase condition from 2.5 up to 3-3.5 to meet the tups in December.

"March lambers have just had the tups removed and the important thing is to ensure that we make the most of grass or we will lose lambs," says Mr Stanford.

A temporary fence is, therefore, being used to ration grass supplies until they are housed in the new year.

February lambers were housed this month and have been scanned so that ewes can be split in to single, twin and triplet bearers and introduced gradually to a straw based ration matched to their nutrient requirements.

Howard Stanford has set up three new flocks, all of which will be fed on home-mixed rations.

Ewes selected for the May lambing flock have been put on to stubble turnips to boost condition pre-tupping.