- 270ha of grassland on the edge of the North Hampshire Downs
- 1,400 Lleyn ewes which outside graze year-round
- 70 ewes in each single-sire mating groups for four weeks ensures concise lambing
- Lambing commercial and pedigree ewes outdoors in May, all lambs fully recorded
- Commercial lambs finished from grass/silage aftermath in autumn.
Key finding: “I see the sheep world changing over the next few years. The technical data that RamCompare continues to generate will become very important to enable us as an industry to produce what the consumer wants at the right price.” Ian Robertson.
Find out more about Ian's sheep enterprise
Ian has a long history of recording the performance of his sheep flock, making extensive use of electronic data capture software. This knowledge and a passion for sheep production made Ian an ideal candidate to run a RamCompare trial farm.
Who are you and where do you farm?
Chawton Park Farm and associated holdings are farmed by Ian Robertson and extend to 270 hectares on the edge of the North Hampshire Downs. The sheep graze around 200 hectares with the remainder conserved as forage for the sheep, pasture for the farm’s deer enterprise and an area of woodland.
Approximately 90% of the land farmed is managed under Entry or Higher Level Stewardship schemes until 2016, after which a grassland regeneration program will be implemented.
What sort of ewes do you have?
There are 1400 Lleyn sheep on the farm, which are outside grazing year-round. 300 shearling ewes are housed in March, lambing in advance of the main flock who lamb outdoors in May. Half the Lleyn ewes are mated pure to recorded Lleyn rams, providing female replacements, the other half are mated to Charollais Terminal sires.
Have you used recorded rams in the past?
A large proportion of the flock are fully performance recorded in order to drive genetic improvement on the maternal side. All rams bought in are performance recorded and have high EBVs.
How would you describe your sheep enterprise?
Tupping: Ewes are teased and then run in single sire mating groups for one cycle providing a concise lambing period and a consistent batch of lambs, they achieve a conception rate of 1.7 lambs per ewe. More than one cycle at this time of year proves difficult to finish off grass. Shearlings lamb in March, followed by outdoor lambing of main flock in May.
Post lambing management. Ewes and lambs run in mobs dependent on whether they are rearing twins or singles and the date they are born and lambs from the main flock are weaned at 100 days Lambs are finished off grass from 100 days, and are sold finished to Randall Parker from August or sold as store lambs at Ashford market, the majority are gone by November.
Ian is a keen advocator of EID data and performance recording using the information collected to guide flock management decisions. Both financial and physical performance data is vital. The whole flock is fully electronically tagged and recorded. Lambs are tagged and weighed at birth, and regularly from eight weeks of age. Ewes are weighed and body condition scored during the year to monitor maternal performance.
What excites you about the project?
“After learning of the impact commercial progeny testing has in countries such as New Zealand and Ireland, I became interested in the new UK RamCompare project, designed to operate on a very similar basis” Ian said.
“I am keen to give something back to the sheep industry, so volunteered the use of my own flock. As an eager data collector I can provide the trial with the information they need and I am intrigued to see how different rams perform on my system” Ian concludes.