Breeding and finishing strategy for prize-winning pedigree Poll Dorset flock

Running a flock of prize-winning pedigree Poll Dorsets led Sherborne farmer Rob Hole to look for nutritional solutions to finish lambs efficiently and support ewe lambs.

Role Holes flock 720

Fourth generation farmer Rob Hole runs The Sherborne Flock alongside his father Richard on 330 acres in North Dorset.

With 400 pedigree ewes and around 35 breeding rams, Rob produces nearly 700 lambs per year. Most of these lambs go to a retailer where they are sold under a specialist premium label. The rest become replacements or breeding stock, feeding into the pedigree Poll Dorset flock which was founded over 50 years ago.

“Our aim has always been to produce commercial sheep with sound breed characteristics which also meet market demands,” says Rob. “The flock’s pedigree is something we’re particularly proud of, with one of our rams selling for 3,800 guineas at this year’s Exeter May sale."

"At a recent farm sale our stock were achieving an average price of £600 a head. However, we also want to finish high-quality lambs to fulfil our long-standing contract with a premium retailer. To get both elements right, we pay close attention to nutrition across all stages of production.”

Lambing in September

Tupping normally begins on the 16th April, with ewes split into groups of around 30-40 ewes. “We normally tup for around a month,” explains Rob. “At the end of June, we scan all ewes and split them into groups based on their scanning rate. Our in-lamb rate is between 1.55 and 1.6, and this year we had 36 sets of triplets. Any ewes which are empty go back to the ram, and these are normally new rams which we pick up in the May sales.”

To complement the farms heifer and beef rearing enterprises, lambing normally begins on the 10th September and finishes around the 10th October. “Although it’s relatively unusual we prefer lambing in September as it helps us make best use of grazing in autumn and gets the lambs off to a good start,” says Rob. “As we share housing between the cattle and sheep, it also means that we’re able to lamb inside before the cattle come in for winter at the end of October. Our ewes and their lambs will then stay in for four days after lambing before going out onto grass.

Fuelling lamb growth rates

“In October we start to move from grass to stubble turnips and begin offering the lambs creep fed Ewbol Prestige Lamb from around three weeks old. Creep intake normally starts to increase in November, continuing when the lambs are weaned in mid-December until they are sold. We are aiming to finish lambs at a liveweight of 45kg, with them normally reaching this by 14 to 15 weeks old.”

Ewbol Prestige Lamb is a high energy, high protein feed which is suitable for creep feeding and intensive lamb feeding systems. It promotes high growth rates, maximum feed efficiency, good lamb health, and excellent grading. “We’ve been particularly impressed with the palatability of Ewbol Prestige Lamb,” says Rob. “It’s helped us achieve really good growth rates and means that many of our lambs are finishing early in January. Getting lambs to market at this point in the year helps us to achieve a favourable price for them.”

Supporting ewe lambs

In January Rob also selects which lambs he will keep for breeding and replacements. “We normally keep around 90 ewe lambs for replacements, and these will continue on the Ewbol Prestige Lamb creep until February. These ewe lambs will then tup slightly later than our main flock, starting in June when they have reached 55kg.

“The aim is for the ewe lambs to lamb in December at 14 months. To prepare them for this they receive haylage and 0.5kg/day of Super Ewbol 21 from three weeks before lambing. They continue to receive this until around one month after lambing when we start tapering it off.”

Super Ewbol 21 is a high-performance feed which is formulated to meet the demands of flocks with high lambing percentages. It helps to produce lambs with exceptional health and immunity status, higher birth weights, excellent growth rates, and strength and vigour.

“Since starting to feed Super Ewbol 21 we’ve been really pleased with the performance of our ewe lambs. We’ve had virtually no cases of mastitis, and the ewes lamb with plenty of milk and lots of high-quality colostrum. This is really noticeable in comparison to our main flock which don’t receive Super Ewbol 21.”

“Overall, I’ve been really impressed with the quality of ForFarmers feeds and I could not speak highly enough of the Ruminant Specialists. He’s always on hand with an answer whenever I need him and he could not be more helpful!