Cumbria Strategic Farm launch event report - 15.10.19

Speakers: Richard & Laila Carruthers (host farmers), Rhidian Jones (Consultant) and Nicola Renison (AHDB)

Workforce: Richard works full time on the farm whilst Laila works part time

Grazing systems

Richard started rotational grazing in 2015, following a talk by Murray Rohloff, a top performing New Zealand farmer and grassland expert. Getting off farm and seeing other systems can prove greatly beneficial and will provide you with an opportunity to see different systems in operation. Rotational grazing is a huge subject and Richard is really looking forward to working with Consultant/Farmer Mark Jones, who farms in an equally wet part of Wales. Having used electric fences for a few years Mark will work with Richard to push forward to the next level; this will then be shared with the group.

A Rape/Ryegrass Mix Clamp Saver has been grown this year to finish the lambs on, which has been a huge success as it has extended the grazing season and improved lamb growth. Rhidian also demonstrated measuring grass with a plate meter and a sward stick, two useful tools when managing a grazing system.

Changing the breeds of sheep

From having horned ewes in 2015, Richard bought some recorded Highlanders and has been crossing these onto his hill ewes ever since, keeping replacements and slowly breeding out the horned ewes. Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) have been embraced and have worked to improve efficiency within Richard’s farm.  Richard selects Focus Prime Rams (terminal sires) with growth and muscle EBV’s in the top 10%, Highlander Rams (Maternal) are selected for growth, muscle and maternal traits in the top 10%. Changing breed has resulted in having sheep that can live on the higher ground with no supplements/hay during the winter months. Richard has also been able to sell his lambs off the hill as a R3L market grade.

Body Condition Scoring (BCS)

Rhidian Jones spoke to the meeting and gave a practical demonstration on the importance of body condition scoring throughout the year, but particularly at tupping time. Body condition scoring is an easy way of getting a ‘handle’ on the ewe’s fitness, indicating nutritional adequacy and can easily be incorporated with other jobs when the sheep are in the race. Target BCS for hill ewes at tupping is 2.5 to 3, for upland it’s 3 to 3.5. Rhidian suggested any skinny ewes pre-tupping need to be given preferential treatment, by putting them on better pasture to enable them to gain weight.

Further information

Upcoming events

  • The next event will be held in May/June 2020