Farmer Focus: Time to focus on sheep

Lambing 2017 is upon us. Eighty per cent of the ewes have lambed in the first ten days so it looks like the teaser rams were effective.

The weather has been much kinder than last year and delaying the start by ten days has meant pasture covers have been better and ewes are producing more milk with lambs growing faster than ever.

We didn’t tup any hoggs this time, which has helped reduce the workload and allowed me to manage predominately on my own.

See also: Read more from our Livestock Farmer Focus writers

We have decided to commit this year’s lamb crop to a direct contract with a major retailer again. This should help remove some of the price volatility experienced over the past few years and also make it easier to budget and make plans going forward.

Cutting costs

It has also inspired me to take further steps to reduce costs. Now that we don’t have any cattle at lambing time I think it will help improve our output from the sheep enterprise as there will be more attention to detail and numbers are going to be increased.

Significant savings have been made in time and labour by simplifying the system and only needing very occasional part-time help, even during lambing.

Further emphasis has been put into managing pasture covers and quality, reducing the need for bought in feed and increasing scope for higher stocking rates. The next stage of this will be weekly monitoring of grass growth and feed budgeting using a specific software package.

Simplifying and consolidating the farm enterprises is allowing me to free up some more time to look at how we can improve our diversification enterprise, which involves winter gritting on private car parks.

I’ve invested in a better vehicle and two more gritters, as well as partaking in the relevant first aid and manual handling courses. The winter has not been a record cold year, but considerably better than the previous year.

I’m hoping that building up this side of the business will help to expand and improve the farming and give us a more secure future. What better platform can you have to diversify from than a farm?

Jim Beary contract-rears 900 calves a year and has a growing flock of Aberfield-cross New Zealand Romneys on a county council farm. He also runs a contract gritting enterprise in winter.