WESLEY and Joanna Collins farm part-time just out-side Belfast, high in the Castlereagh Hills. Both grew up on farms and have been involved with beef, dairy and pig farming. Joanna inherited a small farm from her father a few years back.
“We decided to go into sheep farming as it required less investment compared to other farming sectors. With the uncertainty over future European subsides we decided that a low input system would be the most suitable for our enterprise.
“We decided to keep Lleyn ewes as they have good feet, are very milky and require very little assistance at lambing. They are not a big ewe and this allows us to keep more ewes to the acre, maximising the number of lambs we can produce on our farm each year.”
Wesley and Joanna have been using Hampshire Down rams on their Lleyn ewes for four years.
“We chose to use a Hampshire ram for a number of reasons. Since we are quite new to sheep farming we wanted as few problems as possible. The Hampshires are easy lambed. The lambs are hardy and quick to suck which suits our policy of outdoor lambing.
“The lambs grow fast and thrive well on grass. This year’s lambing percentage is 180 which we are happy with after last year’s drought.
“Our first lambs are away from 12 weeks of age. They are processed at Linden Foods and generally kill out at between 44 and 46 per cent with the majority grading Us and Rs.”
Always trying to improve the performance of their farm and stock they regularly perform faecal worm egg counts to treat the lambs when they really need it, rather than wasting money on dose. They bolus ewes and lambs with Animax boluses to deal with mineral deficiencies and this improves fertility in the ewes and growth rates in the lambs.
This year they have introduced a Llama to their outdoor lambing system and it has reduced mortality rate from predators, mainly crows, to zero.
“We can’t be more pleased with the Hampshire lambs and have already purchased another Hampshire ram this year which we plan to use on our ewe lambs this Autumn” Joanna concluded.
n The Hampshire Down sale of rams, ram lambs, shearling ewes and ewe lambs takes place at Ballymena Livestock Market on Monday August 5, show 4pm sale starts 7pm.