17 May 1996


Attention to detail and forward planning enable one Welsh producer to keep ahead of his contemporaries and in the black. Robert Davies reports

ELECTRONIC selling is working well for Glamorgan flockmaster Lyndon Joseph. But he is still trying to produce the ideal lamb for the system.

He is sure the Texel is the ideal terminal sire but has an open mind about the right crossbred ewe. Currently, Texel x Lleyn ewes make up most of the 550-head commercial flock run at Mount Pleasant Farm, Pyle. This is part of a 202ha (500-acre) two-unit mixed farming business he runs in partnership with his landlord, land agent Philip Knight.

Lleyn sheep have always done well on the farm. Mr Joseph likes their good lambing percentage, their mothering ability and temperament, describing them as "Texels with a bit less back-end conformation".

Putting them to Texel tups provides flock replacements with improved leg shape. This is further enhanced in their lambs by top crossing with a Texel.

But he thinks Texel-Lleyn crosses lack a bit of length and are not ideal for the production of lambs that can be taken to heavy weights. Border Leicester tups are now being used on some of the Lleyn ewes to provide stretched flock replacements. The first ewe lambs look promising.

"We want to sell a quality, premium earning lamb that can be finished off grass or turnips at a range of weights," says Mr Joseph, the British Wool Marketing Boards current Welsh Wool Producer of the Year.

"Almost all the lambs are sold by electronic auction. That means we have to get conformation and fat cover right – every time. If we do, the reward is a higher price," he adds.

Selling on the hook also supplies the detailed carcass classification information that is being used to produce the ideal modern lamb. Last season lambs sold for a satisfactory average of £42 a head but the partners believe they can do even better using tups from their Talbot flock of pedigree Texels on bigger framed crossbred ewes.

About 80 older ewes lamb early but the main lambing starts on March 20. From the day they are housed all ewes are fed a flat rate of 0.45kg a day of home-grown barley. This is mixed with silage in a forage wagon.

Triplet carrying ewes are housed seven weeks before lambing and also receive 0.45kg a day of ewe concentrate.

Twin bearers are offered extra barley because they are housed five weeks before lambing, or two weeks earlier than those carrying singles.

The annual wool clip weighs over 1500kg and improving wool quality is a breeding goal. Tups with tight fleeces are preferred, and ewe lambs are sheared in their first year to encourage them to grow tighter fleeces.

Mr Joseph also plans to shear about 300 younger ewes at the normal time and in October this year. The move follows the experience of a neighbour who recorded an improved lambing percentage from part of a flock that was twice sheared before last season. Without the change the flock averages 164%.

Different coloured ear-tags are used each year, so Mr Joseph knows the age of any sheep without inspecting its teeth. Lleyn crosses tend to wear well and produce an average of five lamb crops before being culled. &#42

&#8226 550 Texel x Lleyn ewes.

&#8226 Lambs marketed deadwight on electronic auction.

&#8226 Mr Joseph awarded Welsh Wool Farmer of the Year in 1995.

&#8226 Also milk 100-head flying dairy herd to average 5500 litres a cow.

&#8226 Heifers finished at 18 months on silage and home-grown barley.

Some of the Texel x Lleyn commercial ewes. Inset: Lyndon Joseph (second left) receives Welsh Wool Producer of the Year award from wool board chairman, Alun Evans. Also pictured are Josephs wife and semi-retired father, David.