John Pawsey is an organic arable farmer and is owner of Shimpling Park Farm.
Running our 650 hectare stockless organic system in Suffolk as well as a further 650 hectares under contractual agreements was going well until 2014 when the wheels started to fall off with the weeds reducing our yelds.
We changed our rotation to include 2 years grass clover leys and introduced green manures in between crops, but we needed somthing to graze all the forage. Sheep seemed the obvious choice on our heavy clay ground but with no infustructure they would have to lamb outside and be contained by electric fencing.
I met Chris and Caroline Hodgkins at the NSA Sheep event in 2014 and the New Zealand Romney seemed the perfect fit for our business. Having bought 250 Wairere bred Romney ewe lambs from Harry Metcalf in September 2014, I bought 3 rams from Chris and Caroline and put them to our ewes in November 2015.
The scanning results of 181% exceeded our expectations and with the majority twins was the icing on the cake. They haven’t needed any concentrates, all the lambs were born outside in April, the ewes are excellent mothers and nothing has gone through the electric fences…yet!
We now have the confidence to build our flockto 1,000 which should take care of the farms planned forage. I can’t think why it has taken so long to get stock back onto the farm.
Ken Lamb is the farm manager at Percy Farms for the Northumberland Estate.
The ewe flock consists of 600 cheviot mules, 400 suffolk cross and 400 Lairg type north country cheviots. The cross ewes are put to Suffolk and Beltex rams. With the Suffolk cross mule lambs retained as replacements.
However, two years ago some of the North Country Cheviots were put to Wairere Romney rams. This cross is simular to the Perendale, a hybrid popular in New Zealand, as well as this, the Romneys have also been put to Cheviot mule shearlings.
“I don’t want a big ewe – you have to feed it. I want a medium sized ewe which is easy to lamb, can live on forage and will produce twins which are at least its own weight or a single which is three-quarters of its own weight and I am impressed with what the NZ Romneys have produced so far”
“The Wairere perendale type gimmers have had no feed all winter, they have lambed themselves and the lambs have grown very fast, so I am very pleased. I have also been impressed with how good the tups have been on their feet, I have had no problems with them, where I have had issues with other tups in the same field. The longevity has also proved to be good with my four shear Wairere Romney still able to cover 100 ewes with no problem.”
Farming 3000 ewes of our own and managing a further 3500 ewes for 3 other farms in Hampshire.
About 10 years ago we had the chance to change ‘our ways’ to an ‘Easy Care Flock System’, and through a lot of research, we came across the ‘New Zealand Romney’. Since then, we have been buying some ewes and buying or hiring all our rams from Chris & Caroline and are now totally committed to the ‘New Zealand Romney’.
The quality and easy lambing characteristics mean our forage-based system works efficiently with large
numbers of sheep and makes a good profit at the end of the year.
We trust in Chris & Caroline’s research and determination to source the best genetics possible in order to provide the easy care system we now rely on for all the flocks.
We would highly recommend Chris & Caroline’s stock to anyone and have the results to prove it!
About five years ago we started using New Zealand genetics on our Romney flock this had the effect of increasing our lambing percentage which was our main objective. We also benefited from the other advantages of years of the New Zealand breeding system.
We started looking at all the advantages of buying rams from recorded flocks. Other people doing all the recording of mothering traits, lamb growth, confirmation, muscle depth etc all things we would like to take advantage of but don’t have the time to achieve.
I visited Chris and Caroline at Locks farm two years ago and was impressed with their system. I liked what they
were doing with the recording and bought four rams which produced good lambs that had plenty of get up and go and have grown on well. We bought rams again last year and have been pleased again with the lambs.
The NZ Romneys fit in well with our system.
Moving from an intensive indoor high input system to a more extensive outdoor low input system saw me opt for the Romney, which is an excellent forager, hardy, a good mother and has good feet.
I have been using Chris and Carolines tups for 5 years, this has provided my Romney flock with a boost to prolificacy while maintaining the excellent foraging ability to perform predominately on grazed forage. The individual tupping and performance recording and constant culling of negative traits carried out by Chris and Caroline on their flock give me the confidence that each tup purchased will perform to the same standard, this has been proved in practice, I would recommend them to anyone.
Catherine was impressed with the scale of the breeding programme which was operating in the UK and the selection pressure applied to any rams sold for breeding.
Catherine’s day job is an independent sheep consultant but also farms in West Wales with her parents. Ease of managment is vital and Catherine was looking to breed her own replacements for the flock. Rams used would need to be performance recorded, managed on a commercial system, have high selection pressure applied and ideally be MV accredited. Wairere UK met all these requirements and the first ram was purchased in 2012 with a further purchase in 2013.
Given Catherine’s interest in monitoring flock performance and profitabilty the performance of the rams and their offspring is being carefully monitored.
“Rams have been put to work and have successfully mated over 100 ewes each per year with 95% lambing in their first cycle.
Despite poor weather conditions suffered in Wales in the spring of 2013, twin reared Romney cross ewe lambs grew at between 300 and 350g/day. Lambs were mostly sold deadweight with R and U grades achieved (from Texel x Welsh ewes.) Carcass weights were also on target averaging 18.5kg. Ewe lambs have been retained for breeding and the first mating will take place this autumn.”
“Rams have been easy to manage and it is noticable how well they perform off grass. The first ram purchased weighed about 70kg as a yearling and by the following summer weighed 100kgs – it is clear that they rams are not pushed and I am looking forwards to seeing their progeny perform over the coming years”
“Both rams are on target to produce at least 800 progeny each over their lifetime ” says Catherine. “This equates to a cost of less than £1/lamb or 2p per/kg live-weight. Considering the industry average is nearing £3/lamb or 6p/kg live-weight this is a significant saving.
This on top of the financial benefits of being able to acess performance recorded objectively selected genetics”. Research has shown that the progeny of high index maternal rams can increase returns by up to £11/lamb produced. With increasing pressure on returns from lamb production Catherine sees these added benefits being vital to the future of her business.
Recently we have been looking to widen the genetic base of our flock and are convinced that using New Zealand genetics is the way forward. We have felt that we needed to increase lambing percentage slightly, but at the same time be sure that the ewes have the milking ability for those extra lambs as well as retaining the easy lambing and great mothering ability of the breed.
The Wairere Romneys are extremely similar in looks and wool type and after initial trials we have found the lambs finish more quickly at slightly higher weights. After visiting the Wairere flock in the Wairapa region of New Zealand and realising the conditions the sheep were kept in were much harsher than our own system, we have decided to replicate what is being done and this year we have lambed a small number of ewe lambs with success. The flexibility of the breed to finish at any age from 12 weeks at 18kg carcases to 25kg hoggets that are of a good conformation and lean suits our system where we try to supply local markets for more than 40 weeks of the year. An added bonus is that the ewes this year should produce wool worth close to £6.00 a fleece.