A no pet policy for Derek Hall of Lilyburn, requires ewes to be well milked and able to rear three lambs where possible in which he relies on the nutrients in his feeding prior to lambing.

Running 950 commercial ewes, 90 pedigree ewes – Bluefaced Leicesters and Suffolks – and 450 Blackface ewes which are used to progeny test their own Bluefaced Leicester tup lambs to ensure the quality of the Scotch Mule lambs are produced. Some 30 Suffolk cross ewes are also on the farm which are used to lamb earlier than the rest of the flock. Breeding for their own replacements, the 470 Scotch Mule ewes will then be put to a Suffolk sire to sell Suffolk cross ewe lambs and fat lambs. Ewes are all outwintered on silage and concentrates when required, and will be brought inside to lamb.

The first lot of commercial wethers lambs will be finished off grass at 11 weeks of age, whilst the Scotch Mule ewe lambs will be sold through United Auctions at Stirling or sold privately. The team will also sell around 300 Suffolk cross ewe lambs to regular buyers each year.

In the pedigree world the farm will sell Bluefaced Leicester shearlings, tup lambs and a few draft in-lamb females each year. The Bluefaced Leicester pedigree tups are fed Davidsons Reiver Nuts for a good part of their life, which Derek believes “that they grow exceptionally well and it is a nice easy diet for them.”

The commercial ewes are on a Davidsons Super ewe ration which is high inclusion of Soya to ensure there is plenty of milk on the ewes come lambing time

“We have a no pets policy here, so we need our triplet bearing ewes to be fit to milk and rear three lambs wherever possible. The rest of the ewes still need to milk well to get our lambs away quickly off of grass,” added Derek, who only used one bag of dried milk on the whole flock last year, which is a testament to the quality of the feeding as the ewes have milked especially well explained Derek.

Some of the stock ewes pre-lambing

When Derek isn’t busy enough on the farm, he is also Chairman of ‘The Mule Group’ which is a combination of Scotch, North of England, Cheviot, Welsh and Highland Mules working together to produce a consistent message on the benefits of using Mule ewes. “The marketplace for breeding ewes has been quite competitive so I think it is something we have to stand our ground on and ensure that the Mule ewe is properly publicised because she is still the best commercial ewe in the industry,” commented Derek.

Mule Ewe Hoggs

“Going forward I think it is going to be really important that we keep our breeds right for what is required in both the commercial market and the pedigree world – health status and performance are two of the most crucial, and it is something we are looking into and addressing,” said Derek, who bought his stock tup as a shearling two years ago at Kelso, but it is always a challenge knowing where your next stock tup is going to come from and whether it is going to breed well on your flock.

“Despite Covid-19 problems it has been a good year for the industry, lamb sales have been really strong as have tup sales and long may it continue. There are uncertain times ahead of us all, but I would like to think that we have a product that is a necessity and there is always going to be a market for us,” concluded Derek.