Didling Farms Open Day

Find out how high performance Innovis genetics combined with focused grassland management are significantly contributing towards reducing costs, increasing stocking rates and improving overall unit output at Didling Farms, Didling, West Sussex at an Innovis organised open day on Thursday 23 June.

Didling Farms fact file, 2015-16 sheep year

  • 259 nucleus Lleyn ewes to Lleyn ram
  • 201 Lleyn ewes to Aberfield ram
  • 337 Lleyn cross Aberfield ewes to Abermax ram
  • 193 Mule ewes to Abermax ram (for benchmarking purposes)
  • 489ha of which 170ha grazed including
  • 83.86ha permeant grass
  • 30.06ha zZero input grass (0Kg N/ha) 
  • 12.37ha low input grass land (50kg N/ha)
  • 41.43ha permanent grass
  • 86.18ha five-year leys
  • 22.04ha red clover
  • 64.14ha white clover
  • Mid-March indoor lambing; 89% lamb within the first three weeks

Flock manager, Matt Blyth faced the following challenges

  • Lamb growth rates and hence numbers finished
  • Output – number and weight of lambs produced
  • Cost control – best use of grass / conserved forage
  • Breeding programme – identifying the genetics best suited to the farm and the most profitable

In 2008 Matt started replacing a traditional crossbred flock with a closed flock of Lleyn ewes. Three years later, he introduced an Aberfield ram to the Lleyn ewes to breed a new damline – the Aberfield cross Lleyn.

“Biosecurity, full traceability and cost were among our reasons and the Aberfield Lleyn helped bring hybrid vigour,” he says. “The entire commercial flock is put to the Abermax selected for growth rate, the ability to reduce days to finish and deliver lambs to market spec.

“We’ve also successfully increased stocking rate. Better sheep genetics and better grassland management have come together.”

Didling Farms flock performance; 2013 v 2015

 

Aberfield Lleyn ewes crossed to Abermax ram

Stocking rate (ewes/ha)

8.6

Scan (%)

175

Lambs reared (%)

167

12 week weaning ave (kg)

30

Finished ave dwt (kg)

20

Lambs finished by 1 Nov (%)

65

Total lambs finished (%)

100

Source: Didling Farms

Why Innovis genetics? “Because unlike individual breeders delivering say an annual 50 rams for breeding purposes, Innovis turns out thousands of rams, so it can put real pressure on its breeding programmes. The company also offers me the opportunity for involvement in its breeding programme as well as providing after sales service.”

Costs have been brought under control by making a great deal more from forage. Set stocking has been replaced by paddock grazing. “We aim to split all ground into 2ha to 4ha paddocks for grazing groups of 300 to 600 ewes,” he explains. “After lambing, smaller groups of 40 to 60 ewes and lambs are introduced to each paddock, including those earmarked for silage production at the start of the grazing season. This prevents mis-mothering before they are tightened into larger groups of 300 to 600 head to intensively graze until lambs reach four to seven weeks of age.” Surplus grazing is made in to high quality silage. 

The temporary leys are part of a five year rotation and feature high sugar varieties, chicory and plantain.

He adds: “Whilst pleased with the flock’s overall improved performance, we are continually looking at ways to make further progress by using data and in house trials to help decision making on how to drive the business forward.”

Sheep Genetics in Practise

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