Ian has a long history of recording the performance of his sheep flock, making extensive use of electronic data capture software. One of our original six RamCompare flocks, Ian’s commercial Lleyn enterprise will remain recording lamb growth from birth through to slaughter.
Chawton Park Farm and associated holdings are farmed by Ian Robertson and extend to 270 hectares on the edge of the North Hampshire Downs. The sheep graze around 200 hectares with the remainder conserved as forage for the sheep, pasture for the farm’s deer enterprise and an area of woodland.
Coming out of the Higher Level Stewardship scheme in 2016, a grassland regeneration program has been implemented to establish new red clover leys providing an ability to finish lambs from grass on silage aftermath.
There are 1400 Lleyn sheep on the farm, which are outside grazing year-round. The flock lambs outdoors in May.
Half the Lleyn ewes are mated pure to recorded Lleyn rams, providing female replacements. Prior to joining the RamCompare project in 2015 the other half were mated to Charollais terminal sires.
A large proportion of the flock are fully performance recorded in order to drive genetic improvement on the maternal side. All rams bought in are performance recorded and have high EBVs.
Tupping: Ewes are teased and then run in single sire mating groups for one cycle providing a concise lambing period and a consistent batch of lambs, they achieve a conception rate of 1.7 lambs per ewe. More than one cycle at this time of year proves difficult to finish off grass.
Post lambing management: Ewes and lambs run in mobs dependent on whether they are rearing twins or singles and the date they are born and lambs from the main flock are weaned at 100 days. Lambs are finished off grass from weaning and are sold finished to Randall Parker from August or sold as store lambs at Ashford market, the majority are gone by November.
Ian is a keen advocator of EID data and performance recording using the information collected to guide flock management decisions. Both financial and physical performance data is vital. The whole flock is fully electronically tagged and recorded using the Border Software system. Both his pedigree Lleyns and RamCompare ewes lamb outdoors, alongside each other and all lambs are fully recorded from birth and are monitored regularly from eight weeks of age.
“The team of people involved in this project makes this challenging programme possible, and they really inspire me,” Ian said.
“I see the sheep world changing over the next few years, and the technical data that RamCompare will generate will become very important to enable us to produce what the consumer wants at the right price.”