LLew Thomas, Carmarthen
- 130 pedigree Lleyn breeding ewes
- Lambing indoors in March
- Lambing from ewe lambs
- Produce breeding ewe lambs for sale
A focus on developing an efficient pedigree ewe forms the basis of the flock at Llygad-yr-Haul near Carmarthen. Llew Thomas has been breeding Lleyns for over 15 years and all his ewes are fully pedigree recorded.
The need to keep detailed pedigree and performance records has led to the uptake of EID technology at Llygad-yr-Haul and this has been helped through participating in the HCC EID recording project. The use of a hand-held reader in-conjunction with a flock management programme now means that detailed records can be kept on individual animals.
The timing of the project also helped Llew take advantage of the Lleyn Society ‘Lleyn Gold’ scheme. “The Lleyn Society has launched a new scheme which helps record and select the most efficient ewes in the flock. Lambs and their mothers are weighed and a grade assigned to each animal. The grade takes into account the weight of the lambs reared and the weight of the ewe. It identifies the ewes which rear good-sized twin lambs and are of medium mature size themselves. With the EID reader I am now in an ideal situation to record and analyse the results and to further improve the genetics of the ewe flock.”
The sale of ewe lambs for breeding is an important part of the flock’s output. Their aim is to produce genuine ewe lambs which will go on and continue to grow and improve on the farm which purchases them.
Selling a large proportion of ewe lambs in the autumn means that growth rates have to be carefully monitored. “After weaning lambs are weighed every 4 weeks to ensure they meet the target weights for sale. By using the reader, I will now have the information on their weight gain at my fingertips.”
Llew has kept detailed records of lamb weights for many years and the farm management programme will also help present the information in such a way that decisions can be made and progress monitored. Performance recorded rams form the basis of the stock rams purchased and a few of the very best ram lambs are also retained for sale as breeding rams otherwise everything is sold for slaughter.
“Now with easy access to all the information recorded I can see the impact that each of the stock rams are having on the flock. It’s not just the performance of their progeny as lambs which are important but also how their offspring perform as breeding ewes.”
Farming at up to 900 feet means that hardiness is an important trait and being close to the coast there can be little respite from wind and rain in the spring. “The flock has high lamb survival rates and this year ewes have a rearing percentage of just over 190% for the mature ewes.”
The flock is Maedi Visna accredited to help maintain a high-health status. “Every two years a proportion of the flock has to be blood sampled to maintain accredited status. Normally we have to read all the tags manually but this year we were able to scan the ewes with the EID reader. It made such a difference not to have to struggle to read an ear tag and making out the number.”
Llew has always placed a focus on producing maternal ewes and any problem ewes have been identified and culled from the flock “A black tag is put in any ewes which cause problems but now with the reader we can make sure that the reason for the problem is also noted.
I am still getting to grips with the software programme which is used with the reader but I have already identified that I can look up the performance of individual rams or ewes over a period of years. This will give me the information necessary to identify the lines which might be causing the problems.”
Whilst the flock is closed from general purchases, some small groups of ewes have been purchased from other pedigree Lleyn flocks. “I will now be able to work out if these ewes are actually adding anything to the performance of my own flocks.”