By Rodney Magowan
NO O grades have been seen on grading slips for over three years at Loughview Farm, Comber, the home of Rodney Chambers and family.
“This proof of why the Texel tup is the nation’s premier terminal sire is seen on our bottom line and in our weekly grading slips from the meat plant. Consistently E, U and R grades.” That’s the forthright view of Comber producer Rodney Chambers, who runs Texel rams with his 260 strong flock.
“Our commercial ewes are mainly Suffolk Cheviot crosses and Texel crosses plus some Zwarbles, another impressive, but larger Dutch sheep.
“As regards rams we have tried other breeds, but for consistently good grades Texel tups are tops. The Texel is a robust yet docile breed so easier to work with and scouring is not the problem seen in some other sheep.
“Growth rates are good and Texel crosses are well able to make up time after bad weather has slowed daily liveweight gain.”
“85% of lambs are away by September having been born from mid February onwards. When you look at, for example, the Tesco cost of production figures, lambing late is not attractive. Yes, costs are reduced early in the year, but even more feed is needed to get those lambs away the following winter.
“Above all I want the decks cleared as tupping time approaches with almost all lambs finished and cashed.”
Having been manager on a large beef unit near Portaferry, Rodney returned with a very logical approach to the business of farming at home with his father David.
“That meant farming for a living rather than living to farm with an emphasis on achieving a reasonable return and an acceptable family lifestyle.
“Aside from sheep our other enterprises are contract rearing dairy heifers and contract fencing for other farmers. A useful skill for anyone with livestock!
“Previous generations here were used to sourcing stock for processors and this has been developed into an assembly point for our local lamb group. On an average week 400 to 500 lambs will be dropped off for transport to Linden Foods. Very convenient for producers around here and down the Ards, who simply do not wish to spend a day a week heading to a mart.
“Operating this past 18 years, the assembly point gives producers easy access to the meat plant and they know the price being paid per lamb up to 21kg. A total return over the year consistently ahead of that obtained elsewhere.
“Some farmers still think taking a heavier lamb to the mart pays better, but does it given the extra weeks and feed needed to get that lamb away plus extra time spend selling them? I doubt it.
“And looking at lambs on collection day it is clear Texel sired lots are just so even and ready to grade well week in, week out,” Rodney Chambers added.
When it comes to buying in stock, where possible Rodney goes for mature ewes rather than ewe lambs. The already lambed three or four year old ewe being, he asserts, ‘better value for money.’
“The same applies when I head to the Texel sale in Ballymena, this year on Wednesday, August 29. I buy good shearling rams bred for use on commercial ewes. There is always a danger with pedigree breeders that some will start to worry about totally unimportant traits linked to tear ducts, face colour or ear alignment!
“So we buy good shearling rams bred to sire lambs that will improve the bottom line on our farm accounts. Rams have come from several breeders over the years including Henry Gamble at Bangor.
“We find Texels produce the right lambing percentage for us. What is the point in the 200% plus lambing percentages claimed by some breeds if one ends up with masses of surplus, pet lambs? Here the ewes scan at 185% and lamb at 175%, which is manageable and better business sense.”
Clearly when it comes to the business of farming Rodney Chambers takes a logical approach and keeps his eye on the ball. A trait also displayed in the local twice yearly farmers’ golf matches where he is consistently in the top three.