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Stackyard News Dec 2011

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Caltech Hampshire Down Commercial Flock of the Year 2011

Winner of the Caltech Hampshire Down Commercial Flock of the Year 2011 is Duncan Nellis, of Morpeth, Northumberland who was commended for the high productivity of his flock and his Hampshire Down terminal sired lambs which meet today’s market requirements.

Duncan Nellis wins the Caltech Hampshire Down Commercial Flock of the Year 2011

Duncan Nellis

The other three finalists are Jon Blakey from Morpeth, Northumberland, Ian Higgins of Basingstoke, Hampshire and Peter Knight, Norfolk Estate Farms, Arundel, West Sussex.

Caltech put up £1,000 worth of Crystalyx product for the winners, who were also presented with ram purchase vouchers from the Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders’ Association at the East of England Winter Fair, Peterborough, on Friday 2 December.

“All four finalists were extremely impressive and fantastic ambassadors for the breed,” said judge, Innovis’ Dewi Jones. “It was a really close run competition with very little between the finalists, especially amongst the top three. All demonstrated cutting edge product and operational management and were extremely professionally run outfits that were turning out very fast finishing and well conformed lambs on low input forage-based systems.

“However the winner had the edge on the other finalists with his high performing flock and business acumen. Duncan’s flock does it all, making him an obvious winner and his flock’s productivity would stand up in any national flock competition. He has a very tight handle on his flock’s productivity and his Hampshire Down terminal sires to ensure that he has a fantastic product – all lambs finish off grass to 19.5kg target deadweight and 88% achieve R grade or better. I was also very impressed with his use of EID to electronically record the growth, lambing ease and any medication used for every animal within the flock.”

Caltech’s Roy Firth said: “Duncan is running an extremely modern flock and his dynamic approach to flock management is something that is becoming increasingly important, especially within the sheep industry. He is taking advantage of every new technology and opportunity to keep his flock ahead of the game and produce some fantastic Hampshire Down crosses with excellent conformation. Any breed society would be happy to have Duncan on board.”

Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders’ Association’s Paul Rooke commented: “We continue to be impressed with the quality of the entrants from both a flock and a management perspective. This reinforces our belief of the role which the modern Hampshire Down can play in delivering prime lambs in a cost effective, low input system.

“As we look forward to the challenges facing the commercial sheep industry, we are confident that the Hampshire Down’s qualities as a terminal sire, delivering higher growth rates, leaner carcases and more muscle per carcase, leave us well placed to strengthen the breed’s position as a breed which delivers more - for less.”


The finalists

Jon Blakey, Netherton Northside, Thropton, Morpeth, Northumberland
575 acres
600 ewes, the majority Lleyn, plus beef and arable enterprises.
John runs a May lambing closed flock breeding ewe replacements. Rams and any extra females are sold and the Hampshire Down is used on the lower end of the flock, with all lambs finished off grass deadweight at a target 21kg and grading within the U and R specification. The Hampshire Down terminal sire is selected for the lean meat and high growth rates that it puts into its lambs. Jon runs an organic system with no concentrates and minimal drugs within the health plan that he has put together with his local vets. The aim for the next few years is to regain the MV status accreditation to achieve premium breeding prices.

Ian Higgins, The Barn Farm, Upton Grey, Basingstoke, Hampshire
940 acres
900 ewes – mainly Suffolk and Romney; additional livestock enterprises producing lamb, beef and pork for their two large farm shops with multiple staff including five butchers, one shepherd and one pigman. Ian’s aim is to produce high quality lamb throughout the year to supply the farm shops using a forage-based low-input diet. Hampshire Down rams are used for the early and late lambings and finished on grass to 42kg target liveweight. Health, teeth, toes, testicles, length and good hind quarters are important criteria when Ian chooses a ram, backed up with supporting EBVs. The flock is geared to sell 25 butchered lambs through the farm shops each fortnight. A comprehensive health plan has been arranged with the local vets. Full EID recording is in operation. Plans are to consolidate the other businesses and focus on maximising the potential of the farm shops.

Peter Knight, Norfolk Estate Farms, Arundel, West Sussex
3,100 acres
1,100 ewes – mainly Romney
Here the low maintenance flock’s management system is integrated with the HLS environmental schemes with lambing outdoors and no concentrates. The flock is fed on stubble turnips or fodder beet over winter and lambs are finished on the same and grass. Peter looks for a Hampshire Down ram that will produce a quick growing lamb to suit all markets. Lambs are sold via the Santa Dam group to local markets and more recently Peter has started to sell through AB Foods to move into local Waitrose stores. Plans are to maintain or slightly increase numbers within the next few years whilst also maintaining the flock health and marketing lambs under the South Downs National Park criteria.

Duncan Nellis, Thistleyhaugh Farm, Longhorsley, Morpeth, Northumberland
940 acres
1,500 ewes, the majority Lleyn, plus a beef enterprise.
Flock managed on a forage based diet on rotational, organic grassland with no concentrates. The ewes are lambed late at grass. All lambs are finished soley off grass. Ram selection is based on health, toes, teeth, testicles and length are all assessed with EBVs to back the visuals up. The unit has a comprehensive health plan developed with its vet and which is constantly evolving. Future plans are to increase the flock size with home-bred replacements and whilst biosecurity continues to be the biggest challenge.

link British Texel Breeding Has Worldwide Appeal
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link Cairness Suffolk Flock Sells to 8,500gns

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