After a dry spring suited to lambing outdoors, brothers Jimmy and Tom Stobart, Armathwaite, Cumbria, have gathered lowland and hill flocks for routine husbandry before turning ewes and lambs out on to clean pasture managed under paddock grazing protocols.
Tom Stobart, who farms with brother Jimmy in Armathwaite, says: “We began lambing on April 3 and finished in early May, having originally scanned the lowland flock at 180 per cent and hoggs at 110 per cent.
“This year we fed ewes according to body condition 100g of a protected soya as a source of DUP every other day in the run up to lambing to improve the production of colostrum.
“It is granular in form and is spread on to clean pasture using a snacker. At £470/tonne it is an affordable alternative to ewe rolls, with 0.75t enough to feed our 1,200 ewes.”
Early lamb growth is helped further by an intramuscular injection of cobalt in mid-May.
Tom says: “It is a practice picked up in New Zealand and sees good growth rates achieved off grass.”
The flock will be mobbed up into groups of about 270 ewes with lambs and moved on to clean pasture with an opening sward of 1,700kg DM/ha (688kg DM/acre).
Prioritising grazing in this way helps reduce worm challenge significantly, says Tom.
Having started to put paddock grazing into practice a couple of years ago, the Stobarts aim to increase output without increasing inputs and no fertiliser has been applied since mid-March.
Tom says; “This means we move sheep on to fresh grazing every two days. Some will see it as extra work, but we get the full benefit from better quality grazing. It also suits our lifestyle should we need or want to take a day off.”
Anecdotal evidence already suggests lamb growth rates are higher with the move away from set-stocking.
Tom says: “You have to be prepared to utilise extra grass, which is why we have bought-in about 100 dairy cross-bred calves. These, along with 46 replacement heifers from a local dairy herd, are also grazing paddocks on two-day moves.”
Some reseeding has also taken place, having put 6ha (16 acres) to the plough.
Tom says: “A mix of 6kg of chicory, 5kg of red clover and 2kg of white clover per acre has been sown to provide a grazing ley for later in the season.”
In addition, 24 Wagyu cattle have been bought-in on a fixed price agreement to be grown on through summer.