FWGS and RWAS Awards
2012 Farmers Weekly Sheep Farmer of the Year 2012 National Grassland Management Award
2012 has been a year of ups and downs. It has been the wettest year in my life time which has made grassland management a challenge. But this made winning the FWGS Grassland Farming competition all the more rewarding!
We are farming 1600 Lleyn ewes plus 400 followers on 600 acres. The farm is split over three holdings some owned and some tenanted through the National Trust. Our land is predominantly coastal with a southerly aspect and lies around 300ft above sea level. Of the 600 acres two thirds would be productive grassland and the remaining third is environmental ground consisting of coastal grazing, wet ground hay meadows and woodland.
After receiving a RWAS sponsored Nuffield award in 2005, we set about changing the farming system to be able to survive without subsidies. We now run a flock of ewes on a low input grass based system. After running teaser rams two weeks prior to tupping we then run performance recorded sires at a ratio of 1:100. Each ewe is recorded to their sire. The ewes are not flushed, instead they run on a level plain of nutrition and stay out on deferred grazing as long in to the winter as possible. They will then be housed approximately 8 weeks prior to lambing. Feed costs are kept low by mixing the silage bales in a mixer wagon. Our blend of silage alone, last year averaged 45%DM, 14.1% protein with an ME of 11.2%.This enabled us to keep bought in concentrates down to 7p/hd/day for twin baring ewes for the last four weeks of pregnancy.
After birth, the lambs are tagged weighed and recorded to their mother, and promptly turned out to the rested grass at a rate of 5 ewes/acre. All paddocks average 24 acres and are split with sheep net in the middle and the ewes are turned out equally between the two halves. After three weeks the two halves are divided into quarters and the 120 ewes are then mixed together and rotated around the 4 six acre paddocks. Lambs are allowed to run ahead through creep hurdles to benefit from the clover first. All grass is measured and recorded, and surplus grass is taken off as Haylage bales for the winter. Through recording the grass, under preforming fields are reseeded (on average every 10 years). P&K is rectified at this point with the use of farm yard manure which is ploughed in, then a purpose made high sugar grass mix with chicory and clover is sown. The newer leys are used to finish all lambs off grass within the same year they are born. One application of 75 kg per acre of phased release fertilizer is used per annum.