6 November 1998

Better margins, easy-care

style…

What can be done to

improve flock profits?

James Garner reports from

an NSAconference

LOWLAND sheep producers can improve margins through better selection of breeding sheep, allowing faster genetic improvement in° flock.

An easy-care sheep flock is based on these principles, Meat and Livestock Commission sheep scientist Jenny Anderson told last weeks National Sheep Association south eastern AGM at West Sussex College of Agriculture.

"This means a self contained flock, breeding your own replacements and culling breeding stock that have health and production problems."

She warned that gross margins for one Signet-costed flock this year had dropped to levels as low as 1981. In light of this, lowland producers had to consider change. "Find out which sheep system is most suitable for your farm."

Speaking about the colleges plans to change its sheep system, Dr Anderson believed it should continue with its nucleus Lleyn flock and build up numbers from this base.

"The Lleyn is a good sheep. It makes sense for the college to utilise its good genetic base in this flock and develop an easy-care sheep system."

This meant getting rid of troublesome sheep, said Dr Anderson. "This promotes flock health by reducing the number of lame sheep and the amount of chemicals used in treating the flock.

"A closed flock also helps protect flocks against potentially devastating diseases such as caseous lymphadentitis,"

An easy care flock is not totally closed, said Dr Anderson, suggesting that the college should continue to purchase high index rams to improve carcass quality of finished lambs.

Running a successful closed flock means retaining a nucleus of breeding sheep. "Once you have a nucleus of good, trouble-free sheep they are used to breed your flock replacements."

A stringent recording system is needed to identify problem sheep, she said. "It requires more recording, so keep as many sheep in the nucleus flock as you can manage," advised Dr Anderson.

More recording means getting away from traditional methods of sheep farming in this country. "Once flockmasters are used to recording in more detail it becomes second nature," she says.

Ewes that cause problems to the shepherd through difficulties at lambing, prolapses, persistent foot-rot and other bad traits should be tagged and culled out of the breeding flock, said Dr Anderson. "It might seem expensive, but these ewes are culled before they become unproductive."

Lowland producers must also consider their end market with greater detail. "Follow lambs through the chain to see how they grade and what their carcasses look like.

"Speak to your abattoir and find out where lambs are going and what specifications they require. Find out whether your lambs are meeting the requirements for their market; what type of feed should they be finished on – concentrate or grass?

"Since butchers shops have declined theres less feedback between farmer and retailer or processor. Knowing what market you are producing for allows you to target production more cost effectively," she said.

BOX of Flock details.

350 ewes – 100 Lleyn, 250 Lleyn x Texel ewes

Lambing time – March to April

Texel and Charollais rams used

Lambs sold to local live market – from mid June onwards

&#8226 350 ewes – 100 Lleyn, 250 Lleyn x Texel ewes

&#8226 Lambing time – March to April

&#8226 Texel and Charollais rams used

&#8226 Lambs sold to local live market – from mid June onwards


&#8226 350 ewes – 100 Lleyn, 250 Lleyn x Texel ewes

&#8226 Lambing time – March to April

&#8226 Texel and Charollais rams used

&#8226 Lambs sold to local live market – from mid June onwards