Flock performance check



When looking to improve flock performance and productivity it is always useful to ask whether using a different breed might be worth considering?

To this end, between 2011 and 2016 we compared and contrasted the performance of Welsh Lleyn and Scottish Blackface ewes. Apart from at tupping, when the ewes were in single sire mating groups on our inbye ground, both breedsran together throughout each year forming what we call our Kirkton flock.

After tupping, the flock spent each winter going between the open hill, hill parks and some of the inbye ground. At ultrasound scanning in February they were separated into different feeding groups according to their expected number of lambs. All the ewes were then lambed between our inbye and hill parks. After marking the lambs at the end of lambing, the ewes with single lambs went out to the hill where they were joined by some of the ewes with twins after clipping. After weaning we also tried to finish the lambs on grass as long as we could.

Over the five years, the average scanning percentage of the Scottish Blackface was 125% (ranging from a high of 130% to a low of 107% in the very harsh winter we all suffered in 2013), whilst the Lleyns was higher at 139% (ranging from 165% to 119% across the years). Lambing percentage followed a similar trend, with the Scottish Blackface averaging 118% and the Lleyns 128%.

The barren rate was on average slightly higher in the Scottish Blackface (11%) than in the Lleyns (8%), but both breeds had similar amounts of ewe mortality and lambs born dead (6% for the Scottish Blackface and 5% for the Lleyns for both types of losses).

At birth, the Lleyns lambs were slightly heavier than the Scottish Blackface (an average of 3.7 kg versus 3.5 kg) and by weaning the Scottish Blackface were marginally heavier (at 27.9 kg compared to 27.8 kg). The average finished price per lamb over the five years was around £64 per lamb for the Lleyns and £61 per lamb for the Scottish Blackface, with the average number of days to finishing being shorter for the Lleyns (at 186 days) compared to the Scottish Blackface (at 195 days). 

These results suggest that Lleyns can perform just as well, or even better, as Scottish Blackface under the harsh climatic conditions we face at Kirkton & Auchtertyre. We have now split the Kirkton flock into two and over the coming years will be investigating how well the two breeds continue to perform when spending more or less time on the hill throughout the year.

This research was primarily funded from the Scottish Government’s Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services Division (RESAS) Strategic Research Programme.

Period23 Sept 2017

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