26 October 2001

Management on fells relatively easy

MANAGING Romney sheep on lakeland fells has proved relatively easy with a lambing percentage of 170 and lambs finishing in October and November.

Ewe body condition is monitored closely in the run up to tupping, aiming for 2.5, says Carol Fletcher. They are flushed on grass prior to tups being turned out in late October. When the weather is poor at tupping time, ewes are fed a daily handful of sugar beet nuts to maintain energy levels and as an aid to embryo implantation after service.

The flock remains outside for the entire winter and is fed controlled amounts of hay. Concentrates are introduced from mid-February.

Mr Fletcher houses ewes as they lamb and keeps them under cover – usually in a makeshift lambing shed – for 48 hours. "The fell is riddled with foxes and badgers, so we need to keep lambs inside for a couple of days. We are achieving 1.7 lambs a ewe born, which is good for a lowland breed out-wintered on a Lake District fell."

The midsummer clip produces individual fleece weights of 3-5kg with a staple length of 12-18cm. Lambs are usually weaned in late July, but this years difficulties led to lambs being left on the ewes until early October.

In recent years, Mrs Fletcher has sold some lambs through a local butcher aiming to produce 18-20kg carcasses by October-November.

Romneys have also shown no susceptibility to ticks or louping-ill, she adds. She also refutes suggestions that because Romney ewes are one of the largest native breeds – mature ewes can weigh more than 70kg – they have higher maintenance costs.

"Simply not true. These ewes look after themselves. The most feed they ever receive is 1lb of concentrates a day at lambing time. The Romney has always been an extremely thrifty lowland sheep, but even on these fells it is proving that you do not have to have horns to live and thrive on the hill." &#42