Farmer Focus: Sheep dairy under way and lambing over

We got planning permission for our sheep dairy. It came through on 25 April, and we’re working towards a target of milking sheep in seven weeks.  

The digger broke ground on 2 May. I’m writing this 11 days later and groundworks finish today – steel and concrete works start next week.

Sump tanks, toilet tanks, rainwater harvesting tanks, concrete panels, roller shutter doors, bulk tank and pipework have all been ordered.

The feed silo has been procured and the parlour has gone for galvanising.

See also: How sheep dairy new entrant has doubled size of flock

About the author

Rob and Jo Hodgkins
Livestock Farmer Focus writer
Rob and Jo Hodgkins run 2,300 ewes across 210ha of grass and have 566ha of arable in Hertfordshire, producing lambs for Tesco and breeding sheep through Kaiapoi Romneys. Subsidy-free sheep farming means ewes must be functional, lamb outdoors and produce lambs on forage alone.
Read more articles by Rob and Jo Hodgkins

The dairy technician is booked for straight after the most bank holidays ever (grrr) and the electrician is primed and ready to go.

The same can’t be said for UK Power Networks – in January we applied for a quote to connect to the pole that sits in the middle of the field with the dairy.

They said they may be able to connect us by October – so generator it is.

The water company will connect on 13 June, and we have finally found a reliable customer for the milk.

The only drawback is they’re in Somerset, so we’re working on some logistics in the background.

Our dairy shepherdess, Robbyn, started with us in April. Fraser, our shepherd, has lambed everything. Weather conditions were perfect, and he pretty much handled all 2,500 on his own.

It’s interesting to see someone else work your system.

He made more use of a pen at each block to save bringing anything back to “the barn” and took an orphan round with him to wet-foster if the opportunity arose.

He also marked ewes to draft out later for culling.

All we have in “the barn” is 27 orphans with some calves we’re rearing for the freezer, which means we will cancel our public lambing event as there’s nothing to see.

Since we started it, a few small farms have set up and undercut us, so it’s somewhat lost its shine anyway.

Breeding stock sales are going well. We have sold out of shearlings and about a third of our ewe lambs are sold.

We have drilled our new spring crops: quinoa and borage and a small field of chicory for the dairy lambs when we wean them. Next time we write, we should be milking.