Cutting costs, improving output

The Besent Family of Manor Farm, Cheselbourne, Dorset have improved their flock output and reduced costs using the New Zealand based genetics of the Innovis Highlander and Primera.

Swapping a traditional flock of 430 Mule and Romney ewes for Highlanders crossed to the Primera has improved output by 15% to 178% lambs reared, they’re quicker to finish and off all forage diets making for savings on creep feed costs.

“We decided to change the system to later outdoor lambing with a hardier ewe in order to improve survival rate as well as prolificacy. Innovis was offering the genetics to do the job in the performance recorded Highlander, and they’re proving a success,” he explains.

“We’ve graded up our Romneys over the last six years to pure Highlander status, over 90% of ewes now lamb within the first three weeks. We’ve noted the lambs have a much higher survival rate and in particular, they demonstrate a lot more vigour at birth. 

“We have also swapped our traditional native and Continental rams for the Primera meat sire. We are now starting to draw lambs at 40kg target weight in the first week in May, that’s 14 weeks earlier than previously, 80% were gone by November, 85% graded R or better and they all finished off forage - grass, followed by access to turnips and haylage from November. Previously we have used expensive creep feed. In fact, we were left with just 40 lambs to sell on to the store market in January, a vast improvement on previous years when we could have up to two or three times that number of lambs left in the new year.”

Tom Besent has additionally focused on improving forage management. “I now shut up more fields for hay or silage to prevent heading grass that reduces quality, I use the mower instead of topper to improve quality, and we are drilling 18 acres of turnips none this year too dry,” he explains. “I also work closely with Synergy Vets to improve all round flock management and that now includes doing faecal egg counts.”

He adds: “Last season we tupped a percentage of Highlander ewes to the Abermax meat sire, the lambs are on growth target and we expect them to finish well.”



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Innovis Ltd, Peithyll, Capel Dewi. Aberystwyth, Wales, UK SY23 3HU.

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