Farmer Focus: Serious turnip lesson learnt this year

It is with a heavy heart that I have had to abandon drilling my stubble turnips. With 25ha to go, the rain had simply not stopped and the field had standing water in it – and it got to the date where stubble turnips just would not have grown.

With all the drilling we have done this year it has been a real eye opener to see just how much the drilling date makes a difference to the overall dry matter quantity.

Crops drilled two weeks earlier look like they have had a shot of steroids compared to the same seed that was drilled later with the same drill.

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It has certainly been a lesson learnt and next year I will have to bribe John Crosse, the combine operator, to do the fields going into catch crops first so I can drill them earlier. (John you have 10 months to think of a suitable bribe!) 

Queries over finishing diet

Lambs are motoring on the beersem clover and oats. They had a check of maybe two weeks while they adjusted to the new diet, but now seem to be piling on weight.

To ensure a 21kg carcass we usually pick grass-finished Romneys at 43.5kg and turnip-finished at 45.5kg, based on our own data.

I’m not sure if the change in killing percent is due to diet or because it is later in the season. We are drawing lambs next week off the oats, so we will set the drafter at 43.5kg, send 100 in and see what happens. 

Turnips struggle but grass gains

While the weather has damaged my long-term forage plans it has enabled incredible grass growth. The Romney ewes are in terrific condition – easily a body condition score of four across the flock.

I am starting to get a little nervous about them being in too good a condition and it affecting the scanning percent. A phone call to Dr Liz Genever at AHDB Beef & Lamb might be on the cards.

This is a make or break year and we need to be at 175% to keep things on track.

We are keeping back 490 ewe lambs this year to increase numbers. I might put tups in with them slightly earlier than normal, maybe 20 November, because this grass flush has meant they are looking superb. 

Rob and Jo Hodgkins, Hertfordshire, produce lambs for Tesco and breeding sheep through Kaiapoi Romneys on 330ha of grazing licenses. Farming without subsidy means sheep must be functional, lamb outdoors and produce lambs on forage alone.