Alwyn Roberts – Aberdale 

If you're based on poor, marginal land and unsure how the Innovis Aberdale can benefit your sheep farming enterprise, Alwyn Roberts compares his Aberdale flock to his Lleyn flock based on the west coast of Wales. 

Farm facts

Rhydycriw is an organic upland beef and sheep farm on the West coast of Wales near Tywyn.

Lambing is towards the end of March and is all outdoors to cut down costs. There is a limited amount of brassica cropping, which along with red clover leys is used for lamb finishing. Baled red clover silage is fed to multiple bearing ewes to minimise concentrates fed. Sheep farming with organic status means a key focus of the farm is to maximise production from forage and home grown feeds which can be a challenge with some of the farm is on marginal land.

Why Aberdale?

Ewe lambs are not tupped but kept at mountain ground to grow. Aberdale ewes are kept to complement the Lleyn flock and were chosen because Alwyn is looking for a hardier forage based animal with better conformation and prolificacy than the Welsh ewe. As parts of the farm with shallow soil can become very dry during the late summer, ewes that do not need flushing fit well with the farm system. Aberdales represent about 55% of the whole flock currently, with a flock structure biased towards younger ewes in the Aberdale flock at present.

The composition of the pastures where Aberdales graze before and during tupping means that the Aberdales get the grass with more unsown species of poorer nutritional quality. The Aberdale ewes’ intake is higher in dry matter, lower in crude protein and of lower digestibility during this period. 

Scanning figures in the second year show that the Aberdales scan higher than the Lleyn ewes with 193% in 2014, compared the Lleyn ewes scanning 156%. The Aberdales also scanned a higher percentage of twins and triplets compared to the Lleyn ewes, with over 70% of the flock scanned with twins or triplets, in comparison to under 60% of the Lleyn flock.

Most lambs are sold towards the end of the summer and into the autumn. Lamb carcass weights for the two flocks are similar with the Aberdales averaging 18.8kg and the Lleyns 18.6kg. The distribution of carcass classification shows that the Aberdale lambs were of slightly better muscle conformation but a little less lean on average compared to the Lleyn lambs.

Farm key features

Organic Upland farm with dry banks lambing outdoors – uses red clover to finish lambs and feed twin/triplet bearing ewes

Values hardiness of the Aberdale

“It is useful to be able to be recording how each flock performs and will help me to improve management of both breed types.” 

 

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