Mark and Lynne Exelby are mixed organic farmers with 500 acres split between two holdings; one at Grewelthorpe near to Ripon and the other at Gatenby near Leeming. The farms are 17 miles apart and are part owned, part tenanted.
Their sheep enterprise consists of around 400 North of England mule ewes. The ewes lamb outside on grass in May. The progeny is all sold dead weight, organic from August through to February.
They have a mixed breed suckler herd of 80 cows that calve in the spring. All progeny is sold dead weight into an organic market between 16 to 24 months of age. The suckler herd is closed, using AI bulls to breed their own replacements.
60 acres of combinable crops are grown including winter wheat and spring oats as well as 50 acres of forage crop of barley/pea mix under-sown with red clover.
Replacement ewes are sourced from a high, hard, hill farm located in the Lake District, ewes are bought in as gimmers and after growing on they are put to the ram as shearlings. In the past they have mainly bought rams with good EBV’s and have used a number of terminal sire breeds including Suffolk, Bleu Du Maine and Meatlinc, in recent years they have found the Texel and Charollais rams suit their system well, though they keep an open mind for the future.
Rams are turned out towards the end of November achieving a scanning percentage of 185-195% typically. Lambing outdoors in May generally provides a better lamb survival rate, their objective is to sell 170-180% lambs per ewe.
Lambs are finished off red clover leys with supplementary whole oats fed ad lib through a 3-in-1 feeder. Lambs remaining in December are brought inside and fed red clover silage and whole oats. All feed provided is home grown organic.
Lambs mainly kill out as R3L’s with some grading as U and some as O. Through their involvement with RamCompare they will access rams with better figures for muscling, through this they hope to see more carcases grading at the R & U conformation level.
- 2015 crop averaged 45.5Kg live weight/20.25 kg dwt. (44.5% KO%) £81.50/head paid
- 2016 crop averaged 45.7Kg live weight/20.6 kg dwt. (45%KO%) £77.40/head paid
“I hope that being part of the ram compare project will give me access to better genetics which will increase my returns in two areas; increasing growth rates so that lambs finish quicker, using less (expensive) organic feed and improving the killing out percentage giving a higher margin per lamb sold,” Mark said.
“Having collected data from my sheep for over 5 years now, it will be interesting to see if improved genetics lift my flock returns.”
“I look forward to working with the RamCompare team who have an enthusiasm for driving the industry forward through promoting the use of performance recording and demonstrating how this tool can be used effectively for enhanced farm returns, also I will meet other farmers who are keen to improve their own flock performance.”
“Being part of this process will help me look at all areas of our sheep enterprise and focus on ewe output rather than whole flock output for our farms.” he concludes.