We are now well into summer with lambs across the country thriving off the plentiful grass we have seen later on in the growing season following the warm dry spring causing a slow start for many area’s. However, we are now approaching the time of year where we start to see grass growth slow down, dropping protein and energy available from forage and increasing the amount of fibre in the crop.

For many flocks this change in forage quality also coincides with weaning, bringing a lot of change for lambs as they leave their mothers and have to stand on their own “four” feet. In order to support lambs during this period it is crucial that we continue to keep lambs on an even plane of nutrition to continue to drive daily live weight gains ensuring a good finish on all lambs sold. Providing an additional concentrate source of feeding alongside grass at this time of year is an ideal way to ensure lambs continue to thrive during this difficult period.

With lots of different concentrates available on the market, it is important when choosing a concentrate for your lambs to look at the bagging label to ensure you are buying the best quality feed available to suit your system. When assessing the bagging label two main factors should be considered: Raw materials and the mineral profile of the feed.

Raw materials are always listed on a bagging label in descending order with the most abundant first. For best results you should always look for a concentrate using top quality raw materials such as protein from soya providing a good source of bypass protein in the diet, distillers dark grains or rapeseed meal. Maize is one of best quality starch sources breaking down slower in the rumen with some utilised further down the digestive system making better use of nutrients available. This slower breakdown also provides a better environment for rumen microbes compared to a diet higher in only barley or wheat. However, a ration providing a source of all 3 main starches can be hugely beneficial for rumen health and performance. A good quality source of fibre in the diet such as beet pulp can also be beneficial in order to slow breakdown of the ration down resulting in a slower absorption of nutrients increasing diet efficiency and overall daily live weight gain.

Mineral profile of the diet is also hugely important to consider. Generally, when looking at the bagging label of a concentrate the vitamin and mineral content of a feed is always declared below the raw materials making it important to always check the small print. Some of the main minerals to consider when looking at a concentrate for growing lambs are Vitamins A, B12 and E and Selenium, all vital for growth, health and immunity. A high inclusion of ammonium chloride is also especially important if feeding to tup lambs in order to prevent urinary calculi (gravel). It is also vital that a fresh, clean water source is also provided to lambs at all times.

The energy levels in a concentrate feed source is also equally as important for growth of the lamb as protein therefore it is also important to check your concentrate is providing a high level of metabolic energy (ME) ideally between 12.5 – 13.0 MJ/kg DM. In order to ensure optimum intakes, the addition of an intake stimulant is also beneficial to aid palatability and further promote live weight gains .

Recent results from gradings returned to a customer from lambs sold dead weight in July 2020, have showed tremendous results from concentrate feeding. Lambs were fed a high energy, maize based Davidsons creep feed from one week of age right through to finish. 60 lambs were sent to slaughter averaging 400g/day live weight gain. At kill out 76.6% graded E with the remainder of lambs all U grade with a 20.5kg net weight. Feed cost throughout came to an average of £6.30 with the average price of lambs sold at £105, bringing the net gain less concentrate feed cost to £98.70/head.

Author – Lorna Shaw

Table 1: Lambs Grade and Average Net Kg – Lambs sold dead weight July 2020

Grade

Number of lambs

Average Net Kg

E3L

45

21.2

E2

1

21.4

U3L

14

19.8

Entire Group

60

20.5

Father and son team Jimmy and Willie Thomson from Hownam Grange, Kelso have been awarded this year’s prestigious Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) Sir William Young Award for their exceptional contribution to the world of sheep breeding.

The award recognises outstanding contribution to livestock breeding and commemorates the service to Scottish agriculture by the late Sir William Young.

Based at HownamGrange, a 1650-acre hill farm on the Roxburghe Estate which the family has tenanted since 1941, father Jimmy and son Willie have been at the top of North Country Cheviot breed for many years now. Willie lives at HownamGrange with wife and farming partner Laura and their three children, while Jimmy runs another tenanted farm at Kelsocleughin Yetholmin partnership with wife Peggy. 

HownamGrange runs two flocks of pure North Country Cheviots, comprising of 450 NCC ewes inbye, and a flock of 800 NCC hill type ewes hefted on the hill ground. They also have a herd of 80 Blue Grey suckler cows, which are bulled with an Aberdeen Angus bull and the calves sold as stores or as breeding heifers.

They have shown Cheviots as far back as the 1950’s, but only started at the Royal Highland Show after Jimmy judged at the 150th Highland Show. While they also have shown Galloway cattle, Scotch Halfbredsheep and commercial sheep, it is their North Country Cheviots they are renowned for.

Flocks from both farms have picked up championship rosettes up and down the UK. Jimmy and Willie’s sustained attention to the finer points of both the Park and Hill types of the North Country Cheviot breed has seen them take not only the overall Champion at the Royal Highland Show on numerous occasions, but also the Interbreed championship four times, the reserve three times, and the Queen’s Cup in 2010. 

Alongside this, they have also sponsored the sheep interbreed pairs competition at the Show for three years and been awarded the John Miller Trophy, Fife and Kinross Gold Cup.

2019 was a fantastic year for the pair, with one ewe lamb selling for £4500, a new breed record for a female, and during the September tupsales at Lockerbie both sale days were topped with HownamGrange tupsselling at £6000 each.

Their breeding knowledge is reflected in the number of prestigious positions held by the pair, with Jimmy a past chair of NSA Scotland and Honorary President of NCC Society, while Willie is the current Past President of the NCC Society.

Their contribution to the North Country Cheviot breed has also recently been noted by the Scottish Farmer, which identified them as one of two families considered to be the very best of stockman in Scotland and shortlisted three of their sheep in the magazine’s Champions of the Decade competition.  

Although facing the challenge of a sale season impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, in the long term their plans are to create a future-proofed business structure for the next generation, should they wish to continue the family’s successful farming legacy.

Willie commented on their win: 

The award is as big as it can get in our opinion. To be recognised and win such a prestigious award for breeding livestock is a real honour, especially since it is our passion and something which we get a good deal of pleasure from. There have been some amazing livestock producers who have won the award in the past and to be in that company is overwhelming.”

 

Adding his congratulations, Bill Gray, RHASS Chairman said: “It was a pleasure to visit the farms and be shown around by Jimmy and Willie who were naturally delighted to receive this prestigious award. Their success at the Royal Highland Show over the years has been impressive and to win the Sir William Young Award for breeding excellence is a fitting tribute. On behalf of RHASS, I would like to add my congratulations to Jimmy and Willie and their families – it is very much a team effort.”

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