The 2016 winner of the AHDB Beef & Lamb Better Returns Programme Improved Flock Award is the Stonedge flock of Derbyshire, owned by Matthew Prince. 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.
The Stonedge flock was established in 2004 from an initial purchase of 20 ewes and three ewe lambs from the dispersing Bubnell flock. Today the farm keeps 40 Suffolk ewes as well as 60 Texels and 20 Beltex. The genetic merit of all three breeds is an integral part of the farming system;
“They are all recorded and carry high indexes as we believe this is important for the commercial producer to make informed choices on what they are buying.”
Fosse Fearless Figo was the first bought ram and was used for two seasons, producing big fleshy lambs that left a stock of big ewes. Since then the flock has used rams from the Drinkstone, Scotsburn, Strathisla and Plaslewellyn flocks and made a joint purchase of Bentley Royal Standard (239:N42) with the Ortum flock. His daughters are now lambing. In 2014 the flock made their most significant purchase; Drinkstone Dionysus (Y68:14:06237) who was bought for 2000 guineas at that year’s National Sale in Shrewsbury. By Drinkstone Napoleon (Y68:12:031) Dionysus has a Terminal Sire Index of 7.26. Mr Prince is very pleased with the impact Dionysus has had on the flock’s performance;
“The past two years of lambing Suffolks has been a dream. Lambs have all been up within five minutes and suckling straight away!”
The sheep run over a holding totalling 105 acres, 35 of which are owned. Located at the edge of the moors and around a thousand feet above sea level the farm can be very wet, so ewe lambs are sent away from late September to early April. The ram lambs winter indoors on good quality hay and silage. Lambing occurs at the end of January with the aim of running shearlings, although they are sold as lambs if there is demand. All the ewes are served by Artificial Insemination to synchronise lambing and then run with a pedigree Suffolk tup for once cycle. Any ewes not in lamb at the end of this period are then run with a Texel or Beltex ram.
Highfield Farm also runs a farm shop and cross bred lambs and pure Suffolks that do not meet the expected standards are processed and sold through this enterprise. More information about the farm shop can be found on www.highfieldhousefarm.co.uk