A CORNISH farmer has praised the standard and efficiency of a performance-related breeding programme, helping to create ‘profitable sheep’.

Jeremy Hosking, of Truro, says his 600-strong ewe enterprise is scheduled to have a firm future in the new regime within his family’s farming business, with his sheep proving to be both efficient and profitable. 

He explained: “For the last five years, we’ve found the Aberfield from Innovis to provide the perfect solution delivering performance from a low input forage-based system on our tenanted farms.

“We’ve developed a sheep enterprise that is essentially simple and fits our busy system which also includes 80ha daffodils, 800ha cereals and a module raising vegetable enterprise, and we are very impressed with our Aberfields. 

“Scan averages 180 per cent with the majority of ewes lambing within the first two cycles. We lamb indoors for ease of management, then they’re straight out to grass. 

“They’re easy to lamb, make for really good mothers and provide plenty of milk resulting in excellent feed conversion rates which are reflected in the average 27kg at 12-week weaning weight.”

The flock goes on to rear 165 per cent with the first draw made at 16 weeks. The lambs are drafted off the unit in late August to dairy keep where they finish on pure grazed grass with the main draw made at seven months and the crop away by December. 

“I’ve no doubt these lambs could finish earlier on better swards however this arrangement fits. Lambs are averaging 20.5kg and they’re all within the E-R3L bracket.

“In fact, while we’ve previously bred the ewes to continental rams, we are finding the pure Aberfield, lambs are outperforming, they are quick to grow, finish without putting on fat and meeting the exact requirements of the multiple we sell to.

“Ewes are maturing at an average 70kg, they are able to maintain themselves in body condition score 2.5- 3.0 throughout the year from pure forage-based diets, and they’re lasting for an average five lamb crops, performance which all adds up towards efficiency and reduced methane emissions.”

Sheep have always played a significant role on Fentongollan Farm with numbers fluctuating according to land availability. 

Jeremy added: “The flock thrives on grazing areas such as steep banks, parkland and flood plains and the sheep play an important part in managing these areas for our landlords. Generally, these areas cannot be reseeded and in the last few years have tended to dry up during the summer months. Furthermore, I enjoy the sheep and feel the farm would be rather heartless without them.”

Jeremy is planning to continue to improve the enterprise’s efficiency by introducing the Aberfield SR, the only livestock purchase in an otherwise closed flock. 

“These genetics from Innovis are bred and reared under selection pressure from forage-based systems, they are all performance recorded and deliver to a strategy which is very conducive to ours,” he said.