The 2016 winner of the AHDB Beef & Lamb Better Returns Programme Improved Flock Award for Hampshire Down sheep is the Normanby flock of Lincolnshire, owned by Edward Brant. This award is presented to an English Signet performance recorded flock that has made high rates of genetic improvement in the breeding potential of the lamb crop during the year as well as demonstrating best practice in progression.
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 Normanby flock is part of a mixed enterprise on the Lincolnshire Wolds. Started in 2010, the flock now runs to 20 breeding ewes and has been basic performance recording since 2011 with ultrasound scanning and CT scanning carried out from 2015.
Edward Brant, who is in his final year at Newcastle University, credits David Smith and Jennifer Atkinson of the Kelsey flock, multiple winners of this award in the past and currently one of the highest indexed flocks in the country, for their help. It was an initial purchase of four ewes from Kelsey that set up the flock and the Smiths have loaned to Normanby the rams Kelsey Marquis (18U1400335) and Aspley Senator (92W13218).
“These rams were kindly lent to us by the Kelsey flock, as well as sharing rams David and Jennifer have also shared vast amounts of knowledge.”
Other rams used in 2015 include the homebred Normanby Maximus (27Z1400347) and Pode Hole Knockout (57T12029) who is on loan from the Thorbeck flock. The Brant family are also part owners of Court General (73R12077) who is being used in the RamCompare project.
On the 625ha farm sheep and cattle play an important role controlling blackgrass and improving soil fertility in an arable rotation that includes vining peas (sold to Birds Eye), spring barley, winter wheat, winter barley, oil seed rape, and miscanthus. The 85 cows and followers are kept as a closed herd and are sold to Dovecote Park. Eighty pedigree Lleyn ewes have been recently purchased and will lamb this spring.
The Hampshire Down ewes are housed from mid- February for March lambing. During this time they are fed hay and a cereal based ration before being turned out onto spring grass. Lambs are supplemented with creep feed to give them the best possible start on the low- input permanent pasture which is part of the Higher Level Scheme.
The breeding programme focusses on the overall EBVs of the sheep but has a particular emphasis on growth rate.
“We believe it has the most economic impact, the quicker the animal grows the less time spent on farm, lowering the cost of raising that lamb. The animals we consider keeping for tups are the animals that reach 40kg slaughter weight in the shortest time.”
Other traits considered are muscling, lambing ease, and milkiness. Animals are produced with commercial objectives and Edward hopes to improve his knowledge of this by working in New Zealand after finishing his degree. In the future the Lleyn and Hampshire Down flocks will be expanded and integrated so that lower merit Lleyn ewes will be put to a Hampshire Down ram to produce grass- finished slaughter generation lambs.