Since 2014 Rhodri Owen has managed 162 hectares (400 acres) of farmland and 121 hectares (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 try lambing earlier in the year.
As part of this move Rhodri switched from Mule ewes to Lleyns; “We decided to start using Lleyns as they are well known for being prolific, but also good mothers. They suit our farm well and have enabled us to close the flock and preserve a high flock health status, as well starting to lamb earlier in the year.
“We have gradually been moving lambing earlier over the past few years and are now aiming to lamb our seasoned ewes in early January, younger ewes in mid-February and ewe lambs in March. Our students help out with lambing and we are normally finished 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 planned rotational grazing, to manage the flocks. “We put a 20ha TechnoGrazing system in place in 2016. The system splits 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 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 grazings and we’ve seen some very 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.”
Rhodri wanted to build on this and ensure all his finishing lambs were seeing consistent weight gains and 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 longer than we’d like to finish.
Rhodri Owen & ForFarmers, Guto Jones
As we are aiming for the early market, we decided to try creep feeding to make sure all 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 as intakes rise avoids wastage. Over the past three years the lambs have consumed between 26 to 32 kg of Ewbol Prestige Lamb by the time they are finished.”
Ewbol Prestige Lamb is a pelleted diet specifically formulated for the intensive lamb system. By supplying lambs with high levels of starch and digestible fibre, it promotes good daily liveweight gain and excellent lean meat production. The combination of both rumen degradable and by-pass proteins also ensures good frame development and tissue growth, helping lambs achieve their full potential.
This combination of careful grazing management and creep feeding means Rhodri is now finishing all his lambs by September. In 2020, 85% of lambs were sold in the prime E, U and R conformation grades and 2-3L fat class. This result was repeated the following year with 85.2% in these same prime categories. In 2022, the college improved these results further, with 87.3% of lambs achieving these specifications.
Rhodri says: “We are now seeing lambs achieving daily liveweight gains of 500g+ per day. By finishing them earlier they are reaching market when demand is at its highest, so we achieve a good price for them."
“We also creep feed our replacement ewe lambs to give them the best start and help them reach the correct tupping weight earlier. Creep feeding with Ewbol Prestige Lamb definitely helps ensure they tup well. Our January-born replacement ewe lambs typically scan at 136 to 140%.”
The combination of rotational grazing and creep feeding has given the flock the balance between best use of homegrown feed and meeting production goals, concludes Rhodri. “It has helped us achieve consistently great results with our lambs.”