Combining creep feeding with precision grazing helps welsh farmer finish lambs earlier

Through a combination of creep feeding, and precision grazing Glynllifon College farm manager Rhodri Owen is now finishing lambs earlier than ever and seeing great returns.

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Since 2014 Rhodri has managed 400 acres of farmland and 300 acres of forest at Glynllifon College, Gwynedd. As well as 565 Lleyn ewes, the college also has a 200-cow dairy herd, and in order to work well alongside this system Rhodri decided to begin moving lambing to earlier in the year.

As part of this move Rhodri switched from using Mule ewes to Lleyns; “We decided to start using Lleyns as they are a breed that is well known for being prolific but also being good mothers. They seem to suit our farm well and have enabled us to close the flock and preserve a high flock health status, as well as allowing us to start lambing earlier in the year."

“We have gradually been moving lambing earlier over the past few years and are now aiming to start lambing our seasoned ewes in early January, our younger ewes in mid-February and ewe lambs in March. Our students help out with lambing and we are normally finished lambing by the end of March. All lambing takes place indoors, with ewes and lambs spending 24 hours in individual pens before turnout, if the weather is good enough.”

Rhodri uses TechnoGrazing, a form of managed rotation grazing, to manage the flocks grazing. “We put a 20ha TechnoGrazing system in place in 2017. The system splits up what was seven fields into three lanes. These lanes are then subdivided into 24 paddocks using electric fencing and surface water pipes to provide the necessary grazing infrastructure."

“Using this system, we set aside two lanes for sheep each year and they will stay within that lane for the whole grazing season. The sheep move paddocks every three days, and we use weekly measurements with a plate meter to determine stocking rates. We’ve been very pleased with the TechnoGrazing system, the paddocks recover well between grazing and we’ve seen some really good grass growth. Ensuring there is plenty of grass in front of our finishing lambs is really important and helps us to achieve good weight gains.”

However, Rhodri wanted to build on this and ensure that all his finishing lambs were seeing consistent weight gains and were finishing in time for the early lamb markets. “We were seeing some good results with just grazing but we did have some straggler lambs who were taking a little bit longer than we’d like to reach finishing. As we are aiming for the early market, we decided to try creep feeding to make sure all of our lambs were finishing in good time and at the right weights.”

Working with Guto Jones at ForFarmers the college put in place a creep feeding plan. Guto explains; “All lambs, including replacement ewe lambs, are creep fed from around three weeks old using Ewbol Prestige Lamb. Starting with small amounts and gradually increasing this as intakes increase avoids wastage. On average each lamb will have consumed 26kg of Ewbol Prestige Lamb by the time they reach finishing.”

Ewbol Prestige Lamb is a specific pelleted diet, for the intensive lamb system. By supplying the lambs with high levels of starch and digestible fibre, it promotes good Daily Live Weight Gain (DLWG) and excellent lean meat production. The combination of both rumen degradable and ‘by-pass’ proteins also ensures good frame development and tissue growth, thus helps the lambs achieve their full potential.

By combining careful grazing management and creep feeding with Rhodri is now finishing all his lambs by September. In 2020 85% of lambs were sold in the E, U, R grades and 2-3L fat class. “We are now seeing lambs achieving daily liveweight gains of 500g+ per day and as by finishing them earlier they are reaching market when demand is at its highest, meaning we achieve a good price for them,” explains Rhodri.

“We also creep feed our replacement ewe lambs in order to get them off to the best start and to help them reach the correct tupping weight earlier. Creep feeding them with Ewbol Prestige Lamb definitely helps to ensure that they tup well - our replacement ewe lambs born in January 2020 tupped later that year have achieved a scanning of 136%.

“Combining rotational grazing with creep feeding means that we are able to find balance between best utilising our homegrown feeds and meeting our production goals. This combination has been very successful for us and has helped us achieve consistent results with our finishing lambs,” Rhodri concludes.