Farmer Focus: Ewe pre-tupping trials surprise

It’s often said that farmers are never happy with the weather. But the recent cold spell is far more favourable than the constant rain we were on the receiving end of this time last year.

The majority of ewes have been scanned, with only the ewe lambs left to scan next week. Results this year have been extremely variable – for no apparent reason, rather frustratingly.

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Our on-farm trial of trace element supplementation also threw up some unexpected results.

Ewes that received no supplementation pre-tupping fared better at scanning than the bolused and drenched ewes, despite the fact that we are deficient in key trace elements. Next year we will have to have a greater focus on feeding over tupping.

Ewes have been grouped according to scan results and body condition, and as many as possible have been removed from the lambing paddocks to hopefully allow the ground to recover pre-lambing.

The debate, highlighted recently in Farmers Weekly, of the impact of showing on the commercial livestock sector is ongoing. It’s an issue continually in the spotlight as farmers look into the performance of their enterprises.

As commercial farmers, when selecting breeding stock we pay little attention to a ram or bull breeder’s success in the show ring. If anything we try and avoid breeders who focus on this area over key commercial traits.

Where we were once in the minority with this attitude, greater focus on key drivers in profitability is forcing producers like ourselves to demand more from breeders, who must now in turn look at their selection policy with a commercial attitude.

What it does provide is a fantastic spectacle at local and national shows throughout the country, and it offers a fantastic shop window for British agriculture to the general public, whose knowledge of our industry is often very limited.

But on the negative side the artificially inflated high prices of such stock frequently publicised in the press does nothing to help our cause in times where incomes are under increased pressure from global markets and domestic retailers.

Showing livestock is a hobby that offers breeders an element of competition and pride in the animals produced. Hopefully it will remain a hobby that comes second to producing commercially efficient, profitable animals.

Tom Jones

Tom Jones lives on a 200ha upland beef and sheep farm near Lake Vyrnwy, Montgomeryshire. He also has a contract shepherding business looking after ewes locally.