At Culland Hall Farm, we always start with the premise that we are looking to breed an animal that will meet the requirements of the demanding commercial farmer. However today on the back of 6 years of research we are now able to also breed for low-methane sheep. This means that our sheep, including our rams, are purely grass fed and are constantly performance recorded. The fat lambs we can easily take up to 20-22kg dwt. We lamb at the end of March, over 2 cycles, and in normal weather years, fat lambs are finished on the farm by year end on grass or with additional haylage in an early winter. Before the first ram lambs go to slaughter, we carefully screen to identify the best to be kept for sale the following season. These will continuously be monitored over the following 6-9 months, with further culling as required.
A combination of closely monitored performance recording EBVs such Maternal, Scan weights, Muscle depth, Fat, Proliferacey and Worm Resistance are used, in addition to closely following growth data for both male and females over their lives, to identify both strengths and weaknesses. This information can then be incorporated into an active culling/breeding programme. We use Border Software’s “Farm IT” which makes this job fairly straight forward. The dairy and beef sectors would never buy bulls without this information or keep poor cows. For sheep with many more data points, this makes even more sense. In NZ over 90% of all rams are Performance Recorded. In the UK only a minority of rams are sold by EBV. It would appear that we are many years behind NZ.
Lambing is indoors, primarily for our convenience as everything is recorded and double tagged at birth. It also builds in a little flexibility if spring weather is particularly adverse, although when we have been caught out, it appears that it is the shepherd who is the most adversely impacted. The Lleyn lambs are tough and very resilient, being very quick to get to their feet and feed immediately after lambing, they have a reputation for being able to cope with outdoor lambing even in difficult weather.