Farmer Focus: Busy buying quality sheep stock from Scotland

It has been a good, steady shearing season, although there’s still plenty more fluff to bash off. In addition, on top of looking after our own flock, I help Martin How­lett, a young shearing contractor in Wiltshire, and still have a few jobs to tidy up for myself and for local shearing contractor Nick Jasper.

It’s a busy period for another reason: my wife, Pip, is expecting our first child imminently.

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A couple of weeks ago we travelled to Lockerbie to buy our Lleyn stock rams from Derek and Cindy Steen. We have been buying from them for three years and this year they had a tremendous choice of shearling rams.

We went to buy four and came home with nine because we just couldn’t choose. We paid good money for them, but I believe it is money well spent as rams are seven-tenths of your flock’s genetics.

I’ve selected our replacement ewe lambs on good conformation – all being twins – and wool type. I find that selecting wool type helps reduce fly strike, as flies like sheep with dense, close wool.

We are still sending lambs to slaughter, although prices aren’t inspiring. At the moment we are killing our Romney cross Lleyn ram lambs between 20kg and 21kg deadweight, with predominantly R grades and a handful of U grades. We don’t creep our lambs and all of our finishing lambs are being rotationally grazed around brassica paddocks. We are killing out between 46% and 48%.

The digger is due to turn up soon to continue hedging. He is just tidying up the footings so we can continue fencing. Hopefully by spring we will have the farm stock-tight.

In early September we hosted the Cornwall sheep dog trials, which attracted a good turnout – with some awesome weather on our side. Twenty-nine dogs were running in the driving competition and 23 in the Maltese cross, so 52 dogs competed in total.

I ran my bitch, Meg, who is a Heading dog I brought over from New Zealand. We came fifth in the driving competition and I’m pretty happy with that, considering I haven’t had time to compete this year. She is used to working 500 ewes, not five.

Matt and Pip Smith run 1,085 breeding Romneys and Romney cross Lleyn ewes across 121ha. Matt is also a shearing contractor and trains sheep dogs