Good records help wean out non-profitable stock

Any sheep which cannot produce a profit from grass should be culled and not used to breed flock replacements, believes Biggar sheep producer Sandy Welsh.

“Too many people try to solve flock performance headaches by investing in managerial aspirins, like extra feed and indoor lambing, rather than asking why they had the headaches,” he said.

Some ewes could produce twins without lambing difficulties and were good milky mothers.

Those that could not deliver the goods and gave repeated problems should be culled, he told delegates at the Aberystwyth leg of the BGS winter roadshow.

Mr Welsh identifies problem ewes and poor rams and those which can generate a profit from grass via comprehensive flock recording.

He also weighs the lambs from his 700 Scottish Blackface and crossbred ewes at eight weeks and again at weaning – when muscle depth is also scanned.

“All these records go to Signet for analysis and I believe we more than recoup the money and time involved.”

Signet uses ease of lambing, maternal ability, litter size, lamb growth rate and carcass traits to index ewes, allowing him to carefully select replacements.

The information was so valuable that he has also had the confidence to start using homebred ram lambs.

“We have stopped buying rams which often did not live up to their appearance at sale time.”

Mr Welsh’s records allowed him to prove to delegates how much influence a ram could have.

Over five years he has recorded the daughters of two similarly priced tups.

On average the eight-week weight of lambs from both were similar at 19.4kg and 19.1kg.

But the average total weight of lambs reared to eight weeks by ewes put to one sire was 15.3kg, while the other produced 29.1kg.

Mr Welsh, however, has brought in Easy-care rams to breed first cross ewes which shed their wool.

“The clip used to pay the rent and the shepherd, now it doesn’t cover the cost of shearing.”

His Easy-care cross Scottish Blackface sheep have enough wool to protect them on the farm’s in-bye land over winter.

But they shed it in tiny bits over about three weeks.

Other benefits include not assisting an Easy-care cross adult sheep to lamb in three years and finishing Easy-care cross lambs on roots without them getting too dirty for the abattoir.

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