21 February 1997

How family lambers hit £1000/ha mark

By Emma Penny

EFFICIENT use of grassland and arable by-products, coupled with high stocking rates, produce gross margins averaging more than £1000/ha (£400/acre) for one Warks family.

The Heritage family, who run 1100 Mule ewes across 206ha (510 acres) at Church Farm, Oxhill, Warwick, told a meeting of the Cotswold Sheep Group that their aim was to produce as many lambs as possible from their grassland each year to ensure profit.

The flock is split into 440 January lambing ewes, with the remainder lambing in March. Lambs from the early lambing flock are intensively finished and sold deadweight to abattoir Kepak.

"We set out to produce as many lambs as possible. We want medium conformation lambs which will finish rapidly and make the right fat class," explains Paul Heritage, who farms with his parents.

Ensuring lambs get off to a good start begins with pre-lambing ewe nutrition. Ewes are clipped at housing, then fed ad-lib straw, a by-product of the 140ha (350 acres) of combinable crops.

An 18% protein, 12-12.5 ME concentrate is usually fed pre-lambing, but this year, the Heritages have opted to feed maize gluten.

"Although the price of cereals has come back to £90/t, concentrate prices have risen to about £150/t. Consequently we are feeding maize gluten, which costs about £110/t, alongside minerals."

Ewes are scanned and body condition scored before housing, with concentrate meted out accordingly. Single-bearers are offered 0.4kg a head a day, introduced six weeks before lambing, with twin-bearers receiving 0.75kg, and triplets being offered 1-1.1kg.

Post-lambing, rates are increased. All triplets are adopted onto single-bearing ewes, so consequently most ewes receive 1.1kg maize gluten – the Heritages standard ration for twin-bearers.

"Creep is introduced at 14 days, and lambs receive a coccidiostat at a month old. As we are producing intensively, we know coccidiosis is likely to be a problem. Vaccinating prevents infection and avoids lamb growth being checked," says Mr Heritage.

After six weeks ewes are weaned and offered haylage. Lambs are fed ad-lib creep until they are finished, with the bulk of lambs being sold at the end of March. "We aim for an 18kg carcass, but have to be very careful to obtain the right fat cover – 3L is ideal."

Paul (left) and Tom Heritage aim to produce as many lambs as possible to maintain gross margins of about £1000/ha.

INTENSIVE FINISHERS


INTENSIVE FINISHERS


&#8226 All ewes rear twins.

&#8226 Ad-lib creep introduced at 14 days.

&#8226 Lambs finished within about 12 weeks.


Church Farm flock gross margins

Early lambing March lambing

flock flock

GM/eweGM/haGM/eweGM/ha

1996661,204711,268

19955190747809

1994551,059581,044

Source: ADAS Sheep Master