Stow farm workshop on tips for growthy lambs

Graham Lofthouse
Graham Lofthouse

The first of Scotland-wide workshops to boost lamb growth took place in the Borders on Tuesday.

The meeting aimed to help producers maximise lamb growth rates in the early season, through good grazing and flock health management, and achieve optimal selling weights.

Farmer Graham Lofthouse who runs 450 ewes and 120 ewe hoggs, along with 87 spring calving suckler cows, on approximately 300 acres (121 ha) at Bankhouse, Stow, near Galashiels hosted the event.

Prompted by the limited acreage, Mr Lofthouse, who farms with part time help from his parents Wilma and Bert, is keen to find systems that increase kilos of meat produced per hectare.

Currently he subdivides fields into one hectare paddocks that sheep graze rotationally on one to two day shifts in the summer which he says increases grass dry matter production by at least 21% when compared to set stocking.

His predominantly Easycare cross ewes, and a reducing number of Texel crosses, are put to Suffolk and Easycare tups.

The ewes start lambing on April 1 and all male lambs are left entire.

Finished lambs are sold direct to Scotbeef at an average of 21.7kg deadweight between late June and January.

Mr Lofthouse’s creed is nature (maternal selection and choosing the right tups) and nurture (nutrition) equal performance.

Guest speakers included QMS knowledge transfer specialist, Michael Blanche who spoke on “Getting the most from your grass”; SAC Consulting veterinary investigation officer, Heather Stevenson on “Flock health and effective trace element supplementation” and Farm Stock (Scotland) livestock procurement officer, Jonny Williams who talked about “The optimum weight for selling lambs based on last year’s Farm Stock Scotland results”.

The meetings are being funded by QMS, Farm Stock (Scotland) Ltd and the Scottish Government Skills Development Scheme and facilitated by SAC Consulting (part of SRUC) to boost collaboration and communication in the supply chain, and improve productivity and profitability at all levels.

Mr Blanche said the visit offered local producers the chance to find out what well run flocks, where attention to detail is key, do to get results

Speaking before Tuesday’s event, he said: “We will cover how to measure grass production and how the rotational system has improved stocking rate and lamb growth rates.

“Two groups of lambs will be weighed before the meeting to calculate growth rate from birth and we will also discuss flock health issues including worms, fluke and trace element supplementation.”

Facilitator SAC Consulting’s Iain Riddell said: “The Lofthouses have also succeeded in reducing lamb losses on the farm to a very low level and during the visit we will look at the role played by careful ewe selection in that.”

For anyone who missed Tuesday’s workshop, the next is at the James Hutton Institute farm, Hartwood, Shotts on June 10.