This year’s South West Sheep takes place at Hornacott Barton, the home of Garth and Sue Martyn. This 142ha (350 acre) unit, which is farmed in conjunction with the Martyns’ daughter and son-in-law’s 40.5ha (100 acre) unit, carries more than 800 ewes and 100 suckler cows.
Border Leicesters dominate the breeding at Hornacott Barton, with a 50-ewe pedigree flock forming the backbone of the farm’s genetics. A further 100 Suffolk cross ewes are put to Border Leicester tups to breed replacement ewes with 70 Scotch halfbreds and 250 Border Leicester x Texel or Texel x Border Leicester ewes put to Texel tups.
The aim is to breed all replacements in a bid to improve ewe type and reduce the risk of buying in disease and health problems, explains Mrs Martyn. “For years ewe lambs were sold as they came fit and replacements selected from those left in autumn. These were then run with Border Leicester tups.
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“However, now all ewe lambs are double tagged at birth and, although a definite decision is made later in the year, this has certainly improved the quality of sheep we have.”
Last year most lambs were sold to Jaspers abattoir, just 10 miles from the farm, from June to December and averaged 18.52kg with more than 97% grading E, U or R at fat class 2 or 3L.
“Introduction of the single farm payment has seen a change of flock management policy, with lambing delayed from January to March to allow ewes and lambs to be turned out onto growing grass. Twin and triplet bearing ewes were brought in a fortnight before lambing, with singles housed for just a week before lambing and no ewes received concentrate feeds until then.
“Additionally, no ewes apart from the Border Leicesters were fed any concentrates after turn out. This has seen feed bills dramatically reduced without any affect on ewes milking ability,” she adds.