Farmer Focus: Struggling to make sense of kill sheets

Lamb selling is well under way. About 600 fat lambs are gone and we have about another 230 to go.

We have run out of stubble turnips so we need to retrieve the last group from a muddy field and transport them to some dry grassland we have. When weighed last week, lamb weight and growth was less then ideal.

As a group they average 41kg at £79.30, so they are almost ready. The plan is to load up our feeder with “cleanings” from the barley we had seed dressed, having treated 31.25t ready for the spring we have ended up with about 3-4t of small seeds mixed with a little chaff.

See also: A Northumberland farm’s approach to faster lamb finishing

Rather than throw it away it will get put through the feeder (possibly mixed with some oats) to form a basic ration and try and finish the last lambs.

At least where they are going it is dry and there is no electric fence. Finally, for the first time since August, I can switch the phone off at evenings and weekends and not worry about sheep on the A10.

Scanning fears

Fencing worries have been replaced with scanning. This year I believe we have about 940 ewes and 520 ewe lambs to scan. Ewe lambs include a group of 100 smaller ewe lambs so I am not expecting much of a conception rate from them but otherwise we are really hoping for about 160-170%. Although I am sure Paul, our bank manager, is hoping even harder.

Unfortunately, our shepherd Will has left for Wales to start a new job. It’s a massive loss for us as he was such a good shepherd, so the search is now on for his replacement.

Average carcass weight on lambs (all finished off turnips – no concentrate) is 21.3Kg (paid to 21kg) sold in five batches. Four mostly graded R3H and one batch was mostly R3L.  

However, to achieve 21.3kg we had a lot of heavy lambs and, in the end, gave away 760.7kg of meat to St Merryn. Our main problem has been in an utterly inconsistent killing out percentage. Further investigation into the data is required.

Rob and Jo Hodgkins run 1,500 ewes across 485ha of grass and have 566ha of arable in Hertfordshire, producing lambs for Tesco and breeding sheep through Kaiapoi Romneys. Subsidy-free farming means sheep must be functional, lamb outdoors and produce lambs on forage alone.