Attention to detail and meticulous planning pay off for one Leicestershire farmer, who is a leading advocate of change and runs a 1,800-ewe flock on the 323-hectare (800-acre) Abbey Farm.
Gareth Owen embraces technology and new approaches but, underpinning all this is the aim of maximum utilisation of forage for either grazing or conserving.
He says: “Good grass, plus the best quality hay or silage we can produce allows the farm to finish lambs off forage all-year-round, selling lambs 52 weeks a year, supplying my brother’s butchery business.”
Mr Owen is well-known as a leading advocate of change. An impressive 240ft by 126ft singlespan building was erected in 2010 and a TMR approach to feeding adopted. The TMR is made up of hay, silage and rolled beans added in the final three weeks prior to lambing.
“We wanted to feed as much forage as possible and find that formulating the TMR to feed about 1.8kg DM a day minimises bought-in feed costs and maximises performance from forage,” he adds.
Forage analysis is undertaken on all cuts for accurate ration formulation and pregnant ewes come in for housing about 10-12 weeks before lambing, when they are also winter-shorn.
As animals are grouped according to scanning results and body condition score as soon as they are housed, this allows the TMR diet to be tailored to the group’s need.
Ewes are fed once-a-day, although a robot pushes up feed continuously, ensuring 24-hour access to fresh TMR. This achieves a rapid rumen turnover resulting in DM intakes being maintained through to lambing. “Our system not only strives to be efficient with forage, it also aims to streamline labour requirements,” Mr Owen says.
Ewes lamb indoors and are turned out onto rested pasture at 48-72 hours old. Lambs are weighed at eight weeks and again at weaning which is around 12 weeks. Post-weaning the ewes are put on poorer grazing, and the lambs onto silage leys that will have been rotated with arable crops. In order to ensure stock health is at a high level at all times, regular faecal egg counting (FEC) is done and Mr Owen uses a FECPAK G2 on-farm test kit to speed up the process.
“As part of AHDB’s Challenge Sheep programme and to help us monitor everything, we feel it is crucial to be aware of the worm burden and also the effectiveness of wormers at all times,” Mr Owen says.
“FEC testing ensures we make the right decision when it comes to worming, incorporating the use of ZolvixTM [monepantel] drench at weaning as a mid-season break dose. This, along with regular testing, has reduced our overall wormer use.
“Much of our grass is in stewardship schemes, meaning it could have sheep on it year after year. By going in with ZolvixTM, we know we are achieving maximum control and it has worked well in our system to date,” he adds.
ZOLVIX™ (monepantel) is a Group 4 AD orange drench and kills economically significant roundworms and will also remove any resistant worms other wormer treatments have left behind. Industry recommendation is to replace one existing wormer in the mid-late season with Zolvix™. By this time lambs will have already received at least one treatment with a wormer from groups 1-BZ, 2-LV or 3-ML and, while this may have given effective worm control, it is likely that a population of resistant worms will remain within the host lamb.
As with all wormers, it is recommended to follow SCOPS advice and not dose and move lambs to clean pasture. Ideally lambs should go back on to the pasture they were previously on for a few days or 10 per cent of the lambs should be left untreated.
ZOLVIX™ 25mg/ml oral solution for sheep. Active ingredient monepantel. Legal category POM-VPS in the UK. Information regarding the side effects, precautions, warnings and contra-indications can be found in product packaging and leaflet; further information can be found in the Summary of Product Characteristics or by contacting Elanco Animal Health on +44(0)1256 353 131. Or write to Elanco Animal Health (the animal health division of Eli Lilly and Company Limited), Lilly House, Priestley Road, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG24 9NL. Use medicines responsibly www.noah.co.uk/responsible. Advice on the use of this or alternative medicine must be sought from the medicine provider. Elanco, Zolvix and the Diagonal Bar are registered trademarks owned by Elanco and its affiliates. UKSHPZOL00115 ©2018 Elanco or its affiliates.