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Farmers Stories 2019
Charollais Rams + Profitable Lambs
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Charollais Deliver in County Durham Sixth generation farmer, Clare Wise has developed a highly efficient and profitable sheep enterprise on the 450 acre Manor Farm, Little Stainton, Co Durham, for which she was awarded the Northern Sheep Farmer of the Year 2018 trophy. The farm is 200 feet above sea level and is a mixed farm with cattle, sheep and arable rotations and the Charollais breed is an important and integral part of the homebred, with the younger flock breeding policy. generation ewes mainly ¾ Charollais.” “We are a family farm and my aim is by working smarter with attention to detail and close monitoring of the health of the flock to achieve a good return from the sheep.” The flock consists of 480 homebred continental cross ewes, selected for performance, longevity and maternal ability. “We keep a tidy, shapely ewe at around 75 kgs with a tight skin.” The flock is split into gimmer breeders and prime lamb breeding ewes. High index/maternal ability Lleyn rams are selected to breed the ewe replacements, either to keep or sell.
The first Charollais tups were purchased around 8 years ago as a trial to breed some gimmers. “The Texels we were using didn’t make good replacements and we wanted to move to a closed flock. To our surprise it was the fat lambs that impressed us as much as the gimmers and we were keen to try more Charollais in the flock.”
For a couple of years Clare played around with Beltex x Charollais rams and some Texels but then decided to go all in and make pure Charollais their main terminal sire. “The prime For prime lamb production powerful lambs were brilliant and we’ve never Charollais sires are the ram of choice, looked back. We use the Lleyn to which are all sold to Morrisons. “In this dilute the Charollais as we don’t want way we can keep a closed flock 100% pure ewes; we like a little bit except for rams, as all the ewes are more hair on them plus hybrid vigour
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Charollais Deliver in County Durham seems to boost milk production.” “We highly rate the Charollais for its ease of lambing, the breed seems to give narrow shoulders and heads and we very rarely intervene at lambing. We aim to keep assisted lambings to below 5% and have only had the vet to lamb 1 ewe in the last 4 years.” “The Charollais lambs are always noticeable by their quickness to their feet and zest for life. We freely admit they are not the prettiest lambs when born but their get up and go and ease to lamb makes up for looks! Bear with them a few days and they soon shape up.” The Charollais cross ewes have good bags and produce plenty of milk. The strong maternal nature of the gimmers, since using the Charollais more extensively, has encouraged Clare to start lambing her gimmers. “They easily achieve our 60 kgs target weight for tupping and this provides additional income for the farm. We also find they make better mothers long term.” Previous breeding strategies couldn’t hit these weights. The good growth rates of the Charollais cross lambs and milkiness
of the ewes has meant that all lambs are finished off grass without creep. The majority of the lambs are sold deadweight to Woodheads and in the 2018 season all graded R or better with the vast majority hitting U3L specification. “The lamb buyer constantly compliments us on our lambs and the feedback from the supermarket last year was brilliant. These lambs consistently hit grading bonuses and to be frank they pay really well.” The Charollais lambs move off the farm a fortnight faster than the other breeds they have tried; off grass with no creep. “We sell lambs as early as possible in the season, we wean lambs at 12 weeks then ideally start selling lambs in July to hit peak prices, at an ideal carcase weight of 20kgs. The fact the Charollais can hold its weight without getting over fat gives me the flexibility to send lambs when I want to and I can make the most of market, not the other way round.” Charollais will definitely remain a major part of their system. “The bank balance says it all for us, these sheep perform and are easier managed and pay really well, we can’t really ask for more.”
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Charollais Make the Grade in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland County Antrim has the highest population of sheep in Northern Ireland and like the landscape the size and type of flock are very diverse ranging from large flocks of mostly Scottish Blackface to smaller flocks, many of which are farmed by part time farmers. One such flock owner is Michael McCloskey who runs 80 mule ewes on just over 20 acres in Loughgiel, County Antrim, a small village 9 miles from Ballymoney and 12 miles from Ballycastle approximately 500 feet above sea level. Michael works full time and his father Gerard is now retired. Initially they started of by buying ewe lambs and running them over to sell as hoggets. In 2014 the decision was made to breed from the ewe lambs, two Charollais ram lambs from a local Charollais Pedigree Breeder were purchased to cross with the Mule ewe lambs. "We chose the Charollais because of their reputation for easy lambing, this proved to be a good choice as sheep lamb down well with minimum stress and very little intervention." 4
North Country Mule with Charollais Cross Lambs “We aim to begin lambing on the 1st March, the ewes are housed in late December early January after coming back from Winter grazing on a local Dairy Farm. The ewes are housed in slatted pens and fed round bale silage, concentrates are introduced six weeks before lambing. The ewes go in to individual pens after lambing and usually remain indoors for three or four days depending on weather conditions.” “We introduce creep feeding between four to six weeks old and continue through to all lambs are finished. This means that our first lambs are killed by the end of June and we are completely cleared by end of September.”
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Charollais Make the Grade in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland In 2018, 68% of lambs were graded U3 with 32% R3. Michael is well pleased that he chose to use a Charollais Ram "Not only are they easy on the ewes when lambing but you have the extra benefits of their liveliness at birth, their growth rate, conformation and exceptional killing out ability. We are very impressed with the way our Charollais lambs grade, this is definitely a big plus for us," David Anderson is a pedigree Charollais breeder in the area. His Ballyhunsley Flock was awarded the Medium Flock trophy in the regional flock competition 2018. He says “Charollais Rams are popular in his area with farmers mostly buying to use on ewe lambs; however many like the McCloskeys have realised the
David Anderson, Michael and Gerard McCloskey additional benefits of using Charollais on all their commercial ewes. The kill out percentage and ability to achieve good grades have so impressed that they are now using the Charollais ram on their main flock. “It’s the buyers who let you know how well the breed is doing and at the minute a good Charollais ram is still the choice of many producers”
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Charollais Quality Carcases to buy all Charollais due to the conformation and carcase quality of the lambs.’ Selection of breeding rams is vital for good carcases. “Firstly I look for flat shoulders in a ram, big muscles across the back and wide hips. A short neck and flat shoulder follows through with a bigger eye muscle; rounded shoulders producer a narrow shaped eye muscle.”
Michael and Melanie Alford are the owners of a diverse range of businesses under the Stillmans name; a slaughterhouse, wholesale butchery and retail butchers shops. The business started in 1935 and prides itself on supplying the very best meat, ethically reared and sourced locally to Taunton in Somerset. They are also very well known for their Foxhill multiprize winning herd of Limousin cattle and under the same prefix their flock of Charollais sheep. Each week Mike buys 300-400 lambs and of these 75% are Charollais. ‘I try 6
Good conformation rams will produce a higher quality, retail carcases. Charollais produce more meat throughout the body, meaning more meat for mincing, whilst preserving meat tenderness and flavour. While eye muscle and fat cover is very important for prime lambs, meat tastiness is also a big factor for Mike when buying lambs. He ideally buys lambs with conformation grades R & U, but stays away from lambs with E grade. “These lambs often carry the double muscling gene; this produces a high meat yield but very poor meat eating quality, lacking taste and is tough.”
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Charollais Quality Carcases Mike points out that this element is so important to his butchering business and wholesale meat supplies; lamb meat always needs to taste delicious to ensure return business. The export market buyers tend to lean towards E grades but there is no business come back on it. The colour and marbling in the Charollais breed is one of the reasons why he chooses the breed for his business, adding more taste than other breeds that have less marbling, which was plain to see from the multi breed carcases on display. “We also like to have heavier lambs for our trade and Charollais sired lambs fit very well into the higher weight bands; plenty of meat and not over-fat.” Mike explains that one of the key benefits to using Charollais rams to produce commercial lambs is that they are to first to finish and can finish off grass alone, unlike other terminal sire breeds, who need feed to finish. He emphasises the importance of farmers recognising that their lambs are finished properly and not just sending them to market when they reach 40kg.
Top quality, prime Charollais cross carcase. He explains this by saying “You would only pick apples when they are ripe, not just when they are big. Likewise, pick lambs for market when they are finished, not just when they have the weight. To ensure the fat balance is right on the animals, catch the tail (if there’s fat on the tail, there is fat in the carcase, but no fat on the tail, means no fat on the carcase) and feel the back, the muscle needs to be higher than the bone.”
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Welsh Mountain Ewe Project In Autumn last year a number of Welsh hill farms were selected to take part in a Charollais x Welsh hill ewe project. Our aim was to challenge the perception of lack-ofhardiness and show how use of Charollais tups can improve growth, carcase weight and therefore increase returns on Welsh Hill farms.
Charollais Rams out on the hills with Welsh Mountain Ewes at tupping time
with harsh weather conditions. Our aim is to The farms were spread show in a practical, across Wales and mostly commercial situation farming Welsh Mountain that this is just not the ewes but with Brecknock case. Hill Cheviots on one farm. Flock size varied The project farms all from 250 - 4,000 ewes. appreciated that in the
interested to see what the Charollais could achieve.
The rams sourced for the project were selected on type, naturally well fleshed and with good future they would require head cover. They were Too often we have heard additional income from sound commercial type that farmers are their sheep and one way of rams available either reluctant to use at sales or off-farm from would be to increase ram breeders. The price Charollais rams on their lamb killing weight. paid was in the low to hill ewes due to stories Some farms had used circulating that lambs alternative terminal sires mid range for commercial tups in have little birth coat and in the past, with mixed Autumn 2018. lack the vitality to cope results so were
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Welsh Mountain Ewe Project At lambing without exception all the farms have been amazed at the birth coat and hardiness of the Charollais cross Welsh Mountain lambs. Some flocks choose to lamb twin bearing ewes inside but the majority lambed everything outside. Gareth Wyn Jones lambed all his ewes outside and found the new-born lambs have coped fine with his harsh conditions. The Charollais cross lambs take on the birth coat and head cover of their mothers.
Welsh Mountain Ewes with Charollais sired lambs plenty of wool coverage. In fact they were very similar to a pure-bred lamb in terms of colour, head cover and wool length.”
easy lambing is a highly important factor for her sheep enterprise. She was very impressed with the size of the twins and triplets from the Charollais. And despite He also noticed how the good birth weights James Leonard found she only assisted with a similar results on his farm quick on their feet the Charollais cross lambs very few ewes. She also in Monmouthshire. He were; the first lamb of a has confirmed the had progeny from both set of twins will be up on thoughts of the other South Wales Mountain farms “Hardiness of the ewes and Brecknock Hill its feet just as the second lamb is coming. lambs has certainly not Cheviot ewes. They certainly have been a problem and plenty of get up and go. growth rate of the “We were amazed how Charollais crosses is the progeny of the Welsh On Bethan Williams farm looking good.” ewes certainly had at Castell Llwyd Farm, www.charollaissheep.com
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Welsh Mountain Ewe Project EASY LAMBING So did using a larger sire cause lambing problems? The majority of farms had very few lambing issues and most ewes lambed by themselves without any intervention. On farms that had used Suffolk and Texel, they were very happy with the vigour and activity of the Charollais cross lambs. Lambs were more easily born and certainly up on their feet and sucking far quicker.
WEIGHTS Lambing has run from the end of February to the end of April on the different farms. Some of the oldest lambs are now 10/11 weeks old. Brecknock Hill Cheviot lambs, which were some of the first born have reached 39.5 kgs and 38.5 kgs for twin lambs.
Brecknock Hill Cheviot Ewes with Charollais sired cross lambs The average for Brecknock Hill Cheviot lambs born between 16th - 27th March is 28.75 kgs at 8/9 weeks. Some recent weights of the South Wales Mountain Sheep lambs born mid to end of March have averaged 21.12 kgs at 8/9 weeks. These weights are looking very hopeful for an increase in growth rate and final carcase weight from the www.charollaissheep.com
Charollais rams. This project shows how Charollais tups will work on hill ewes; lambs are hardy, lamb easily, vigorous and have quick growth to an increased slaughter weight.
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Ewe Auction Sales for 2019 ALL EWES AT OUR OFFICIAL IN-LAMB EWE SALES ARE INSPECTED AND WARRANTED IN LAMB.
“FEMALES WORCESTER WITH FIGURES” MARKET
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Ram Auction Sales for 2019 Buy with confidence at our official sales All rams are covered by a fertility guarantee. RAM SALES
DAY OF WEEK
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BUILTH WELLS EARLY NSA
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WEDNESDAY 14TH AUGUST
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