The Foulrice flock, owned by C W Marwood & Son from Whenby, North Yorkshire, has been recognised by AHDB Beef & Lamb as the most progressive flock of Charollais sheep based on the flock`s genetic merit & improvement over the past 10 years.
The Foulrice flock, set up in 1982, now has some 500 pedigree ewes and shearlings. Charles says: “We chose the Charollais breed because we wanted something suitable for both the early and later lamb market with fast growth and a quality carcase. We started the flock with two shearling ewes, three ewe lambs and a ram from John Barber of Wymondham, Norfolk. In 1986 we visited France, purchasing a dozen ewe lambs and we also added a small number of females from flock dispersals. Since this time we have maintained a closed flock, only buying in some of our stock rams.”
Charles sells pedigree stock both through markets and off farm, regularly taking consignments to the premier sale in Worcester, both NSA sales at Builth Wells, Kelso and smaller sales throughout the north of England. “We do have customers who like to see rams in their home environment and so prefer to purchase rams off farm untrimmed,” explains Charles.
“We started recording the flock in about 1984 as we could see the value in keeping records to help improve performance of the flock. In the early days it was only weight and growth rates that were recorded,” explains Charles. “We now benefit from the use of ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) scanning which is a good management aid for us, helping us to produce animals with good figures, which are pleasing to the eye, with all the right physical attributes. The benefits of this are seen at sales where rams with tight skin and good conformation attract the best prices. At the end of the day, we are primarily producing rams for the commercial farmer and this information means they can make more informed decisions on their purchases with the use of both indexes and estimated breeding values (EBVs) for different traits.”
Having a large flock with a spread of genetics allows Charles and son Stephen to not only use purchased rams, but also to use some of the best homebred rams as well. “This allows us to maintain the consistency of type within our flock as well as driving our performance forward,” says Charles. “Skeletal correctness coupled with a tight skin and carcase quality is of paramount importance for any commercial farmer selling butchers lambs. Couple this with EBVs which identify fast growth, good muscle and positive fat cover and this will give our customers rams that produce lambs that can grow quickly, finish well off grass, producing carcases that meet market specification.
“Six years ago we bought Dalby Mount Aloe along with Lowerye Neils Favourite, both have been influential in the flock, producing the type of rams we wanted, particularly Foulrice Osprey giving excellent conformation. Last year we purchased Dalby Sherman at Worcester which had the physical attributes we desired and was the second-highest rated ram of the year with an index of 483. Dalby Sherman also has the best muscle EBV for the breed which is backed up by good muscle depth at ultrasound scanning and its growth at both eight weeks and scanning was exceptional.”
Charles adds: “One of the main benefits of running a large flock is that selection is very strict, meaning 50 per cent of the lambs are not needed for flock replacements or ram sales and are sold in the live market for meat where they command a premium.”
On winning the award, Charles says: “We are delighted to have won the Decade of Progress Flock Award. We have always been driven to achieve genetic improvement within the flock. Our aim has always been to have a flock of level breeding females to produce batches of quality rams.”