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Texel

Primestock

scription Prescription for for

A Texel Sheep Society publication

Issue 4 – Spring 2014

Quick Finishing Texels provide solutions

improvedhealth, health, faster growth, proved faster growth, and increased lean muscle ger carcases and increased n muscle

Consistency of supply key to improved margins North of England producer sold on Texel commercial traits. Switch back to Texel with no regrets for Scottish producer When weights matter! Texel are not the only sire for Derbyshire producer....But they are the most versatile!

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Producer Case Studies

At the 4000 acre Aberfeldy Estate, Perthsire, we constantly aim to improve the quality of the lambs each year, and we are confident we have found the right breed in our quest. Our lamb crop, numbers 5-600 per year with the majority sold off grass heading to McIntosh Donald through Highland Glen at 19-20kgs. Texel is the only breed that we have found that can do the whole job for us, producing good breeding females and in turn, quality lambs that are sought after, and can be finished off grass.

Lockerbie flock of 400 strong Texel Cross Commercial ewes retuned to using Texel sires for prime lamb production. With lambs finished off grass with additional keep of 15-20 acres of a rape/kale hybrid, swift, for those that need it. Lambs are sold to Vivers, with remaining lambs to Longtown or Lockerbie marts. With Vivers lambs going for export, weights are capped at 21kg, with E and U grades. We know we can get a better lamb with a Texel Cross female, compared to a mule, without losing too much lambing percentage or compromising milkiness. Stephen Illingworth

Alaster Fraser Texel breeders respond to an ever increasing demand for growthy, fleshy rams, capable of leaving quick finishing lambs. Breeders have delivered substantial improvement in commercial traits, with quicker growing lambs that finish sooner providing improved margins both through lower intakes and also through more timely marketing Recent large improvements in both growth and muscling traits delivered by Recorded Texel rams have offered significant opportunities to commercial producers, cutting their costs and improving margins.

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At Mains of Dalrulzion, the Stewarts were drawn to Texel based on Davids experience as a contract Shearer. Selling prime lambs from the end of August through to the New Year at the local Lawrie & Symington Forfar market, going to local butchers at weights 46-52kg. Our Texel flock has scanned regularly above 190%, and you would struggle to beat Texel in the Prime lamb market as well as the cast ewes as well. David Stewart

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Primestock Prescription for improved health, faster growth, and increased lean muscle

Contents

Carving out a margin in challenging environments with unpredictable weather patterns are all within the daily routine of the average UK sheep producer. These are of course all totally out with your own control, but there are still plenty of ways that you can influence your flocks’ productivity.

A recent Eblex better returns survey reported that average lowland sheep producers lost £13 per ewe put to the ram last year (before SFP and Agri-environment money). Top third producers made £18 profit per ewe put to the ram. Providing plenty of scope for improvements for the producers.

The level of detail required to micromanage every aspect of sheep production can be mind blowing. However there is an old but simple message “if you are not measuring it, you can’t manage it!”. So by starting to analyse one part of your flocks management now and adding a new analyses each year will be beneficial in both the short and long term. All Sheep producers have one common aim, and that is to improve margins, by adding value or by lowering inputs into their business. Attention to detail from the grass roots through to selecting finished stock for sale and target marketing thereof are all essential to optimise the bottom line.

2 Producer case studies 4 “Marketing lambs quickly and consistently makes Texel first choice terminal sire” 6 “A return to Texel offers no regrets for Brown family!” 8 “Texels improved feed conversion key to profitable commercial sheep production” 1011 “ Texels have the ability to finish at a variety of weights without going over fat” 1213 “ Texel X Mules prove their worth for producers” 1415 “Cumbrian producer aims for grass finishing system”

This publication offers some useful information and great case studies on how sheep producers are exploiting the use of Texel genetics across a wide variety of production systems. With the majority aiming to maximise the benefits of quick growing Texel genetics finishing from grass or forage crops all across the UK. Additionally the technical section looks at the importance of weighing prime stock to maximise performance. With additional advice on the importance of identifying target markets for your stock, based on weights and condition, to further add value to your flocks. We hope you find the information useful.

John Yates Chief Executive British Texel Sheep Society

Acknowledgement The Society thanks all those who have contributed in the creation of this production. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy of information contained within the Texel Sheep Society publication no responsibility can be accepted for any errors or omissions or any reliance on use of the information to readers. All prices and information is correct at time of going to press.

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“Marketing lambs quickly and consistently makes Texel first choice terminal sire” Hepburn Farms - Northumberland David Merredy

The ability to market lambs quickly and consistently makes Texels the first choice terminal sire for David Merredy at Wooler, Northumberland-based Hepburn Farms. “Without a doubt Texels work for us, allowing us to draw even, consistent batches of lambs for sale on a deadweight basis. Texel cross lambs respond really well to our system, being hardy enough to work in our outdoor lambing system and excellent forage and feed converters allowing them to finish quickly,” explains Mr Merredy. The 350-ewes at Hepburn Farms start lambing at the back end of March and early April, with about half the flock being North Country Mules and the other half made up of retained Texel cross ewes, with all ewes put to Texel tups to produce both replacements and prime lambs. “This year the Texel cross ewes have scanned at 200% and the Mules have come out at 212%, but I try not to flush ewes at tupping, preferring to keep them on an even plain of nutrition of all through the year and maintain good body condition at all times. Again the Texel cross ewes are particularly adept at this, being easily fleshed and converting grass really well.”

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With twin lambs creep fed the first draw of lambs is generally made towards the end of June, with lambs then drawn every week from then on. “The single lambs are generally not creep fed, unless grass production drops significantly which can happen here in a dry summer. “Creep feeding the twins works well and helps get lambs away before grass slows down and means there is a good cover of grass to help maintain ewe condition later in the year ahead of tupping.” On top of this the combination of Texel genetics and creep feeding works well to ensure lambs kill out well when sold to Randall Parker Foods through local livestock agent Stephen Kirkup. “Our lambs go to Randall Parker Foods abattoir at Llanidloes, mid-Wales, so we need to be sure they’ll kill out well after their journey. “Creep fed Texel crosses generally kill out at more than 50% and average 20-21kg deadweight, exactly in the specification required,” explains Mr Merredy. With ram lambs left entire and Mr Merredy generally working alone he prefers to sell deadweight rather than through the live markets. “It works well for me as I generally don’t have time to attend markets on a weekly basis. Ram lambs are left entire as with our outdoor lambing system I prefer not to stress lambs too much as it can mean one lamb being left behind when the mother moves off.

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Primestock “Entire ram lambs are often discounted in live markets, but it makes no difference on a deadweight basis and helps lambs finish a bit quicker too.” Texel cross lambs from the Mule ewes generally grade as Us and Rs, with the three quarter Texel lambs from the Texel cross ewes grading as mainly Es and Us. “We get a few more Rs off the Mule ewes, but that’s only to be expected. They still kill out at a good weight though and with the ewe lamb replacements last year we reared at 190% across both the crossbred ewes and the Mule ewes,” he adds. When it comes to selecting replacement tups Mr Merredy buys annually from Kelso tup sales, often returning to the same breeders on a regular basis. “I’m looking for a good strong tup with a tight skin and good even fleshing throughout. For the last few years we’ve bought from Douganhill Farms and the tups have done a great job for us.

“Additionally, if needs be we can hold lambs for a week or two if the markets shifts in the wrong direction. I don’t like holding lambs for too long, particularly creep fed lambs, but we can do if we have to.” But the name of the game for Mr Merredy is to get lambs finished as soon as possible, with generally only 120-150 lambs left on the farm by the time lambs are weaned in the second week of August. “Getting lambs away quickly makes a huge difference on this farm and the Texel cross lambs are great for that. “They’re vigorous at birth and have a real get up and go not always seen in some other terminal sires. That early vigour means they get a good start and as a result grow well to finishing weight, with lambs drawn at 39-42kg liveweight.”

“The crucial thing with a Texel cross lamb is the flexibility it gives you. If the market is strong we can draw lambs slightly lighter than we normally would sure in the knowledge they’ll have a good cover at most weights and will kill out well. That ability to finish at a wide range of weights is a great benefit as we’re not waiting for lambs to finish if the price is right.

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Hepburn farms, feature farm Texel lamb marketing, view more on our You Tube Channel

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“A return to Texel offers no regrets for Brown family!” Hilton of Culsh - Aberdeenshire W & J Brown The current flock begins with Cheviot Mules, which are bought in and then crossed with the Texel. Those ewe lambs are retained for breeding, and as hoggs, are put to a Charollais cross Beltex tup the first year, while all the ewes go to the Texel tup. “We fatten all the lambs, other than the ewe lambs we keep for breeding, and we like to get them finished as early as possible,” explained William, who has returned to the Texel in recent years, having tried them unsuccessfully in the past. “When we tried the Texel before, many years ago, we found the lambs were two weeks behind the Suffolk cross lambs, but now the breed is bigger and rangier, far better for the commercial job. We began to put more focus on the Texels around seven years ago and haven’t regretted it – the tups we’re buying now, we couldn’t get before.”

A priority for the Brown family at Hilton of Culsh, New Deer, is to finish their prime lambs as quickly as possible, and by switching primarily to the Texel sire, they have been able to achieve that goal – attaining better grades and a smaller feed bill in the process. William and Jennifer run the 500-acre Aberdeenshire farm – which has been in the family since the early 1800s – along with son John and daughters Morag and Grace. They have a 130-strong suckler herd and 15 pedigree Limousins, in addition to 500 ewes (including 70 pure Texels which are run commercially alongside the cross sheep) and 140 hoggs.

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The majority of the Browns’ lambs go to Woodhead Brothers in Turriff, but they do try to support the live market when they can. In the aftermath of a fire which almost destroyed the Woodhead plant in 2008, the family put lambs through the ring at Huntly, and found that the Texels sold particularly well through the live ring – achieving £2 more than the other crosses – which encouraged them to go further down the Texel route. “Compared to other crosses, we’ve found the lambs have more vigour at lambing time too, and keep cleaner through the summer,” said William. Lambing takes place from 20th March onwards, with the ewes being lambed inside and, weather permitting, out within three days.

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Primestock “We’ve found the Texel ewes are easily fleshed, so we’ve learned to cut back on feed prior to lambing time. We have very little problems with them, they are good mothers, milky and easy to handle,” said John, who contract shears through the summer. The 2013 cross lamb crop were weaned at 193%, but they have been up to 200% in the past. However, William says they do have a lot of triplets and quads, which can be a problem. “We leave the ewes with two lambs and those with a single get one fostered on, while orphans are reared on a milk machine. I think a lot of the threes and fours will be coming through from the Cheviot Mule, so hopefully now we’re working more with the second cross Texels, we’ll get fewer lambs but of better quality.” Other than the orphans, which are finished on pellets, the majority of the lambs are finished straight off grass from 12 weeks onwards, with the Browns aiming to get them away at 21kg d/w. This year they averaged 20.5kg, with the lot (those sold through the ring and those sold to Woodhead), levelling out at £92 a head. More than half of the Texels are achieving E or U grades. The Browns like plenty size and scale in their ewes, while still maintaining femininity – traits which they feel they can get from the Texel on to the Cheviot Mule. When it comes to selecting ewe lambs to be retained in the flock, it is size, scale, tight skins and character that appeals to them. Three tups per 100 ewes are needed and William and John say there’s a particular type of tup that they go for. “We got fed up buying over-fed tups that just weren’t lasting, so we now try to buy naturally reared shearlings, which we mostly get at Dingwall, Thainstone and Huntly. Since we started going for that type, the difference is huge and they definitely last far longer,” said William.

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“Our system is to finish lambs off grass, so there’s no point on us buying in tups that depend on feed. The aim is for our pure Texels to be naturally fleshed, so we get rid of any sheep that lose condition over the winter,” he added.

In fact, the family have been so impressed with their boughtin naturally fleshed tups that they have started breeding their own and selling them as shearlings, a project headed by John, who is particularly keen on the pedigree side of the sheep flock, and has gained worthwhile experience through working down at Biggar with the Baillies at Calla, after finishing his course at Oatridge. This year’s batch of 15 naturally reared tups were sold at Huntly at the end of September, to a top of £1200, averaging out at £890. “There are definitely still too many tups around that are over-fed, but overall, we find there’s a lot more choice when it comes to buying tups than there used to be. We were at Kelso this year and were really impressed with the Texels there, some tremendous shearlings and as good a show as I have seen there,” explained William, who has judged the commercial sheep at the Royal Highland and makes an effort to show his own sheep whenever possible. Showing cross gimmers and ewes with lambs at foot, the Browns regularly pick up the top tickets at their local events, Echt, New Deer, Keith and Turriff, and they’ve secured the championship at the Royal Northern Spring Show a staggering 13 times (including the last six years in a row). “We’ve had a lot more success with the commercial showing since we introduced Texels in to the flock and our sheep flock has improved on the whole. The sheep side of the business is definitely a family concern, we’re all keen on them,” added William.

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“Texels improved feed conversion key to profitable commercial sheep production” Weighing matters to optimise your production (Graphs and tables courtesy of Eblex) A key driver to a profitable sheep enterprise is ensuring you measure performance at every level. This is not a task purely for the Accountants! but begins at the grass roots level. Lambs with a live weight gain of 500g a day, which is now common place in commercial sheep production when using high performance Texel sires, will be the most profitable and an average of 350g a day for twins should be aimed for. “Its more efficient for a lamb to grow quickly in terms of how it converts energy into growth”

Development of lean muscle and fat The main purpose of rearing sheep today is the production of meat for human consumption. Meat comprises lean muscle with associated bone and fat. As an animal grows the tissues grow and mature at different rates. For the three important components of the carcase, bone grows first followed by muscle and then fat.

This means that energy intake of an animal is first directed to bone growth and then to lean growth. Once the demands of these two tissues are met, excess energy is stored as fat. The Texel breed is renowned for its ability to convert poor forage into lean meat yield quickly and efficiently and it is this trait that keeps the breed popularity high today. Fat is energy dense and the energy cost is about six times that of depositing muscle. It is therefore important for cost effective animal production to match dietary supply with the need for lean tissue growth to produce lean meat required by the consumer. It’s so important to make weighing work for you and provide you with information you can act upon and that will ultimately impact on your flock performance and profitability.

Why Weigh? • Helps to manage the weight gains of individual animals and adjust inputs accordingly. • Assists in meeting your chosen market specification, optimising the value of lambs, avoiding discounting by purchasers. • Allows for accurate calculation of drench/pour on dosage based on the requirements of the individual animal and reduces waste of products. • Close monitoring of weight gain of offspring can help make breeding decisions to maximise reproductive performance. • Combined with accurate record keeping, weight loss related to disease or illness is identified and managed quickly.

Selecting for the market The ability to assess sheep both visually, but most importantly by handling is an essential skill for a sheep producer. It provides vital feedback to monitor the progress of animals, spot ailments and adjust feed regimes. By combining handling with regular weighing and recording, producers can manage their stock in order to maximise their returns. Lambs should be carefully selected, ideally in conjunction with using a weigh crate, to ensure that as many possible meet the specific market requirements.

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Primestock Traditional / Catering Butcher Carcase weight: 16-21kg dcw Conf: E,U,R,O Fat: 2,3L, 3H, 4L

When weight doesn’t pay!

There can be a market for extra weight but only when its muscle. It certainly does not pay if the extra kilos are fat. Remember…excess fat has to be trimmed in the abattoir. So saleable meat yield can be proportionally lower for out of spec carcases as weight increases. Extra carcase weight does not actually mean a similar increase in saleable meat yield, because fat trim also increases as the animal ages and increase in weight. Fat trim has been found to increase from 3.5 to 5% when an animal moves from a grade 2 to 3H, which is predicted to take an average of 90 days for castrated lambs or 47 days for female lambs.

Cull Ewes A range of conformations are acceptable (R,O and even P), but fat levels should be 2 or 3L; Lean cull ewes are in great demand for parts of the ‘halal’ market

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E U R O P

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Producers can help extend shelf life of British lamb. Extending the shelf life is critical, to reduce wastage and improve British Lambs competiveness in export markets. New Zealand lamb often has 60-84 days shelf life, which increase to 110 days with carbon dioxide gas flushed products. Achieving the same goal for British lamb will extend our products seasonal availability and reduce the major issue of spoilage throughout the supply chain. This can simply be improved by producers providing clean stock to abattoirs and markets, which vastly improves hygienic processing. “If lambs are not clean and empty before they enter the processing area, no amount of hygienic dressing and intervention will compensate for high levels of microbial contamination”.

Typical market requirements Supermarket Carcase weight: 16-21kg Conf: E,U,R Fat: 2,3L (some include 3H)

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Export Market Carcase weight: 12-19kg Conf: E,U,R (some markets will, take O) Fat: 2,3L (some include 3H)

E U R O P

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“Farmers processors, livestock auctioneers and transport operators all have role to play in achieving high standards of livestock presentation and offer better returns across the supply chain”.

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“ Texels have the ability to finish at a variety of weights without going over fat” Chatsworth Estate - Derbyshire Ian Turner

A focus on meeting market demands and appealing to the widest possible customer base for both prime and store lambs has seen an increasing use of Texel sires at Bakewell, Derbyshire-based Chatsworth Estate. The in-hand farming operation, managed by Ian Turner on behalf of the Estate’s trustees, runs a total of 2600 ewes across its 4400 acres of grassland, with 2000 of these being North Country Mules and the remainder a flock of Swaledales which graze the Estate’s moorland. A herd of 200 Limousin and Limousin cross suckler cows runs alongside the sheep enterprise.

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“We aim to maximise the value of every lamb we sell and that means providing what the customer wants. With a lambing percentage regularly exceeding 175% in the Mule flock we have a large number of lambs to sell every year and mix the trade between prime lambs and store lambs as the season progresses.” The first of the Estate’s Mules lamb in the first 10 days of February, with these lambs finished on creep feed to meet early season demand from the Estate’s own farm shop and also regular customers at Bakewell market. “The farm shop takes up to 40 lambs a week at the peak of the season, so is a valuable outlet for the flock. Lambing 300 ewes early helps up spread the marketing period and meet that demand from the shop as soon as we can in the year.”

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Primestock And, with the 300 early lambing Mules out of the way lambing then commences in earnest in the third week of March, explains Mr Turner. “We use Texels both on the early lambing flock and the main flock and they provide exactly the type of carcass the farm shop needs, solid, thick carcasses that can be finished at a variety of weights without going overfat.” “At the start of this year’s draw we were putting 20.5kg carcasses in to the shop which is a little heavier than ideal, but the lambs were finishing quickly and killing out exceptionally well.” And while Texels aren’t the only sire used on the flock Mr Turner says they are the most versatile of all. “They work well on both the early and main flock and can be sold as prime lambs, store lambs for finishing or as breeding ewe lambs. The improvements in growth rate seen in the breed in the last 20 years are noticeable and that has definitely helped us make better use of them. “Historically I may not have favoured the Texel for the early lambing flock, but improved growth rates and great response to creep feed mean their ideal for that flock now. Crucially, they lay down condition throughout their growth, unlike some other breeds which can grow a lot of frame before putting a finish on.” And it’s not just the Estate’s farm shop which has pushed Mr Turner more heavily to Texel sires, with surplus prime lambs and store lambs sold through Bakewell Market also finding favour with buyers.

“There has been a definite change in the type of lamb being required by buyers at Bakewell, with Texel sired lambs finding favour more and more compared to say 10 years ago.” “That’s true of both the prime lamb and store lamb buyers and we now also sell a significant number of Texel cross ewe lambs through the market as well, with local buyers keen to buy these and put a Texel sire back on them to breed top quality prime lambs.” Mr Turner sources all his Texel tups from the Quick family’s Devon-based Loosebeare flock, buying off-farm in early July to ensure a good choice. “When you’re buying a number of tups you need consistency and a decent selection. I find that buying from one flock means we get a more level crop of lambs and the beauty of the Loosebeare flock is I can go there and see more than 100 shearling tups to pick from. “It also aids management once we get them home as well as they’re all on the same health treatments and can be run as a group as soon as they arrive rather than needing time to settle with each other.” When it comes to the type of tup he’s looking for Mr Turner is eager to look for shape and strength throughout. “Because we’re running Mule ewes we can stand having a slightly smaller tup than some may prefer, but we do need plenty of shape to ensure we have lambs with good top and backends.” And with up to 800 store lambs offered at a time at Bakewell the aim is to provide buyers with choice and generate a strong average for the entire run, he adds. “We run three sire breeds to help spread the options and keep buyers keen for our lambs. If we only ran one breed of sire then we’d limit the number of buyers our lambs would appeal to and potentially pull our average price back.” About 2000 lambs are sold as stores every year through August and September with the aim of having no lambs left on the farm by the end of December. “As an upland farm we don’t want to be carrying lambs round through the winter if we can avoid it and I like having lambs away before we start feeding ewes in the run up to lambing.” Ewes are housed 10 days prior to the start of lambing, with silage fed prior to housing alongside concentrate feeding which starts six weeks ahead of lambing. “Ewes are housed in batches according to raddle mark and the aim is to have them out to grass again within a few days of lambing. The Texel sired lambs are strong and hardy at birth and thrive whatever the weather throws at them,” he explains.

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“ Texel x Mules prove their worth for producers” Texel boosts profit on Limavady farm Ivor Purcell

Limavady based farmer Ivor Purcell farms 700 acres alongside his father James and brother William. This lowland unit is home to 150 dairy cows and 450 breeding ewes which are run along side 170 acres of cereals grown annually. Rising costs and tighter margins have resulted in agricultural businesses paying closer attention to detail to ensure that their farms are performing in a difficult climate. Ivor, who manages the sheep enterprise remains vigilant in terms of both the ewe and lambs ability to prosper with minimal input to keep a handle on profitability. His flock consists mainly of Texel x Mule type ewes which are well able to produce and rear quality lambs each season. These are run mostly with Texel rams and lamb from the beginning of February onwards.

Flock replacements are mostly sourced from lambs within the unit, with 50 Texel sired females retained each year. These are pulled to one side and tipped as lambs with Texel rams. “I favour breeding my own replacements, and have had great results with the Texel x ewe. The blend of this with the Mule offers exceptional mothering ability, and lambs produced have good hybrid vigour.”

Ivor explains “I find that the Texel x Mule female is a good strong hardy type ewe with an abundance of milk to rear her lambs, even in a difficult grazing season such as this spring. The lambs are well made and fill out quickly when suckling their dams, and with good grassland management do not need to be creep feed until just before weaning. This is a significant factor when reviewing costs against revenue.” Lambs are weaned in the middle of July at which point they are grazed until they are ready for slaughter with a goal half weight of 21 kilos. Ivor markets his lambs through Dunbia where the majority are recorded at U grades which attracts a bonus payment.

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Primestock Texels come out tops on Ballymoney farm John & Frank McHenry The McHenry family are well known throughout the farming community, and regularly host farm walks in conjunction with their links with DARD and AFBI.

The flock is lambed indoors from mid March onwards with the aim to get the ewe and her lambs out to grass as soon as possible after lambing. The Texel sired lambs make good use of the milk and grass combination and are ready for weaning from mid July onwards. The McHenry’s are active members of the Causeway Coast Lamb Group and all lambs are killed through this scheme at half weights in the range of 19 - 20 kilos. John explains “We have found that Texel rams crossed with our ewes produce a superior lamb which is lambed and reared easily. Over 90% of our lambs killed through the lamb group grade U or above. Stock rams are selected as lambs, and we put a strong emphasis on their carcase and correctness.”

John and his father Frank farm 240 acres of lowland registered as LFA in Mosside, on the outskirts of Ballymoney, County Antrim. A suckler herd of 80 cows is run alongside the Kilmahamog pedigree Charolais herd which was founded in 1995. A commercial sheep flock is maintained at around 400 ewes, which comprise mainly of Texel x Mules. This mating produces what the McHenry’s consider to be the optimum ewe with the ability to produce and rear quality lambs on a grass fed system. Virtually all replacements are sourced from within the flock which ensures full traceability and monitored health status. Each year approximately 80-100 ewe lambs are retained. As part of their association with the Department of Agriculture (DARD) the McHenry farm is monitored to explore different management systems and their effects. Most recently this has involved analysis of paddock grazing systems which John considers to be of great benefit to his farm.

Research work is also carried out within the sheep flock in association with Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI). Various trials have been undertaken with their help, and one of the long term benefits is that there is full recording of each individual sheep. This confirms that Texel are performing incredibly well within the flock as key factors such as gestation length, ease of lambing, age at weaning, in addition to carcase performance are all available at the touch of a button. Whilst the McHenry family are very forward thinking and keen to try and adopt new farming methods to further enhance their bottom line, their partnership with Texel looks set to continue. “There is no doubt in our minds that Texels can offer us the best of both worlds in terms of our lamb production and the type of hard wearing ewe that performs well on our farm.” says John.

“We embraced the paddock system and were genuinely surprised at the results. Sheep are grazed for 3-4 days in a paddock and moved on rotation. The result has been better quality pasture with less tramping by livestock. The paddocks are rested for approximately 21 days and this would not be the case under usual grassland management. In addition we have been able to reduce the levels of compound fertiliser used, and had the added benefit of being able to cut extra silage. The benefits to the sheep are also of note with grass quality improved. This promotes weight gain, and we do not have to feed meal which is a significant factor.” states John.

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“Cumbrian producer aims for grass finishing system” Kiwi methods may not suit all UK systems Content courtesy of Farmers Weekly

Is the New Zealand style sheep system the route to successful prime lamb production in the UK. Jeremy Hunt meets a Cumbrian sheep producer who is not so sure. The wide variation in successful sheep production systems in the UK should not have their credibility challenged by the current fad to promote New Zealand ranch style shepherding. That’s according to Cumbrian sheep producer Will Case, who’s concerned too many people may get swept away with the concept of New Zealand farming without fully evaluating it. “Profitable sheep farming is about putting round pegs in round holes and the current systems practiced in the UK do precisely that. They have been developed by generations of skilled stock keepers to suit all situations of climate and terrain, and if we start to assume that the only way to make money out of sheep is to ranch farm Romney’s we’ll be doing our industry serious harm” he adds. Mr Case spent time in New Zealand, and says he’s well aware of the success that the country’s sheep farmers have achieved by adopting a style of flock management suited to its landscape and sheep. “And I know it’s working well here for some people, it’s not for everyone. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We do what we do with sheep in the UK because it works” says Mr Case who runs 1000 commercial ewes alongside the Nab Point flock of 90 pedigree Texels.

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Farming on the west Cumbrian coast and with 60 inches of rainfall, he’s adamant he will “always need a sheep shed on a farm like this”. And while he has new goals and fresh challenges ahead for his flock, he’s confident his currently system - similar to many others across the UK - has been developed to suit the farm. His commercial flock comprises about 700 North of England Mules and 300 home-bred Texel cross mules. Texel tups are used on the North of England Mules, Charollais tups on the Texel-crosses and some Suffolk tups are turned out with 250 ewes run on marsh grazings, which produce salt-march lamb. About 170 of the older ewes are lambed for a final time in mid February with the aim of selling prime lambs - and the ewes on to the cull market - in May to mid-June. The main flock starts to lamb from 10 March and all lambs are finished with most sold liveweight at 41-43kg. The 400 Saltmarsh lambs are sold deadweight. “I’m confident about the future of the sheep industry in the UK because we all benefit from the sector’s diversity and the all import link between the uplands and the lowlands”. Mr Case is satisfied with his margin per ewe but acknowledges there are always improvements that can be made in terms of reducing costs of production and improving efficiency. “But we’ll be making improvements within our existing system and believe others can do the same without jumping headlong into a totally new approach to farming sheep”.

tel: 024 7669 6629

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email: office@texel.co.uk


Primestock Selling off Grass

The flock’s main focus for the future is to sell every lamb off grass by the time the tups are turned out in the autumn “That’s the dream and were on track, we’re currently selling 90% of all our lambs by that time. We’re trying to get lambs away as efficiently as we can all the way through the season so that we’ve always got grass coming in front of the flock. “Our first draw of lambs at 41kg creates a snowball effect. It creates more room on the pastures, outs more grass in front of the sheep and helps us make the best use of grass throughout the season. There’s no point in hanging on to the first lambs to get them to 46kg - all that does is slow up the whole system”.

EBV’s EBV recording of the farms pedigree Texel flock is also going to be put to a practical test. “We start recording with Signet this year and will be looking closely at the fat scores of our rams. In the past breeders have been encouraged to achieve a minus fat score on the EBV, but I’m now wanting a positive fat score”.

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“As a sheep industry we need to be producing more from lower inputs and we can produce Texel tups with that sort of fat score and that have the ability to finish off grass without losing anything on confirmation, we can make even more progress. Our deadweight lambs are mostly achieving R and U grades but the Saltmarsh lambs are a leaner type of carcass - usually 3s and 2s”. Mr Case firmly believes the proven commercial traits of the North of England Mule, the carcass qualities of the Texel and an ongoing commitment to make the best use of grass for finishing, are the key elements of widespread successful prime lamb production in the UK. “UK sheep farmers should have more confidence. The promotion of radical changes to sheep production systems in the UK must acknowledge that they are not a cure-all that will make profit where profit doesn’t exist already.

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In touch with Texel

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@twitter.com/britishtexel

www.texel.co.uk

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#addtexeladdvalue

02476 696629

Texel Primestock Magazine 2014  

The Texel Sheep Society's Primestock Magazine.

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