The 2016 winner of the AHDB Beef & Lamb Better Returns Programme Improved Flock Award for Lleyn sheep is the Bearwood flock of Herefordshire, owned by Ed Collins. This award is presented to the English Signet performance recorded flock that makes the greatest improvement in the breeding potential of the lamb crop during the year.
The AHDB BRP aims to highlight the financial impact that improved breeding and better lamb selection strategies can have on commercial flock profitability.
This award seeks to reward those breeders that are using Estimated Breeding Values to enhance the performance of their flocks and assist them to promote their achievement. The impact of performance recorded stock is significant and is increasing every year because of the activities of progressive farmers.
Mr Collins’s excellence in farming has already been well documented; he was a finalist for the 2013 Farmers Weekly Sheep Farmer of the Year award. Based near Leominster in Herefordshire the farm runs to 800 acres, 600 of which is arable and on a contract farming agreement. The Lleyn flock consists of 400 ewes and is accompanied by a smaller flock of the increasingly popular Blue Texel sheep, also recorded with Signet.
The Lleyn flock was established in 1998 and is grazed on permanent pasture which is part of the Entry Level Scheme’s Low Input System. As the entire flock is managed by one person there is an emphasis on easy care attributes and the lambs are reared off grass; only the last few at the end of the season are given supplementary concentrates.
Lambs are mostly by Lleyn rams but crossing with Blue Texels has also proved successful, producing good meat lambs with the potential for ewes to be sold on for breeding purposes.
Rams used recently include Abracadabra (619:00993) bought from Bank Farm Lleyns (Carcase+ Index 297) and the homebreds 981:1302159 (Caesar), 981:1402562 (Dakota) and 981:1402582 (Darwin) all of whom have indexes over 230. A recent purchase is Dougal (971:1406611) from Laga Farms in Orkney. All of the rams carry the Myomax gene and have Maternal and Carcase figures in the top 1% or 5% of the breed. Sheep identified as carriers of the Myomax marker have increased muscling in the leg and loin, less carcase fat and an improved carcase weight compared to non- Myomax animals of the same liveweight and genetic background.
Mr Collins is a member and secretary of the Performance Recorded Lleyn Breeders which are currently working with Signet and Glasgow University to develop an Estimated Breeding Value for worm resistance. This project involved the collection of faecal egg and saliva samples from 3,000 sheep. Preliminary results show that animals with a higher level of a parasite specific antibody (IgA) in their saliva tended to have lower faecal egg counts, suggesting that they have greater resistance to roundworm infection. Developing an EBV for worm resistance will enable breeders to select animals for this trait and therefore reduce losses associated with parasite- reduced performance.
Social media is used extensively for marketing both breeds of sheep. Prospective buyers are welcomed on farm to see the sheep in their natural state and all sheep are sold off the farm, this year both yearling ewes and ewe lambs will be sold. Ram semen is also available to purchase.