The National Sheep Association's biennial Sheep South West event will be held this year at Southcott Farm near Burrington in North Devon.

Bryan and Liz Griffiths have farmed at Southcott for 35 years. The event will showcase their focus on the health of both their flock and bank balance.

There will be a farm tour and interactive workshops will take place throughout the day. 

Ongoing improvements in lameness, colostrum quality, worm resistance and a reduction in the reliance on antibiotics at Southcott have been applied as a result of practically-trialed science.

However, the principle behind the Griffiths' farming business has barely altered over the past three decades. Permanent pasture remains the foundation of a simple enterprise based on sheep. Bought-in store cattle compliment the flock.

Bryan said: “Simplicity is key to what we do here. But we never stop thinking of ways to refine how we go about improving the land and stock.”

The closed flock of 320 Suffolk x Mules are housed six weeks prior to lambing to a Texel x Charollais from February 18.

Of the 420 North Country Mules, 160 are put to a Suffolk to breed replacements for the early-lambing flock; the rest bred to a Texel x Charollais. These lamb from March 25 – as do the replacement ewe lambs and the 100 Mule ewe lambs bought in annually. Rams are removed so no sheep lamb after May 1.

This year the early flock scanned at 185 per cent, Mules at 212 per cent and 80 per cent of the hogs went to the ram successfully.

For the past five years, ram lambs in the early flock have not been castrated resulting in the first three picks finishing for Jaspers at 19.5kg dw by the end of May. February-born lambs are offered, ad lib, 18 per cent protein creep pellets.

Lambs from the later flock are weaned at the end of July. They are turned into silage after-grass and trough-fed a set ration of 16 per cent protein lamb finisher. They are all sold by December.

About 50 yearling store cattle are bought in every autumn from Cutcombe and Tavistock market. They are wintered indoors on second quality forage and turned out in April. Concentrates are introduced the following autumn with finished cattle sold to Dunbia by November at 330-350 kg dw.

Bryan added: “The farm definitely benefits from mixed grazing; the practice is essential to reducing pasture worm burden and improving sward quality.

“Over the years, with varying degrees of success, we have tried all sorts to improve the grass and introduce more clover. Now we just reseed ten per cent of the ground at a time and spread just two cwt of 25:5:5 artificial compound each spring.”

Flock health is where the focus currently lies at Southcott. A 15-year close relationship with Torch Vets has led to significant results in trials on worm resistance, lameness and, more recently, the reduction in use of antibiotics on farm.

Liz said: “We now believe it is better to see how far we can go without using antibiotics before encountering a problem.

“Instead, for the past three years, we have focused on other areas of flock management to enhance flock health. For example, lime is spread over the whole shed before the ewes come in and dry disinfectant powder used in every lambing pen between each lambing.”

And that philosophy has worked. With just Liz and Bryan managing the farm they ‘frontload’ sheep with vaccinations to try and have as stress- and disease-free lambing as is feasible. They have also concentrated on improving ewe condition at lambing.

“This is so important for both healthy lambs and quality colostrum. There is no doubt feeding good quality forage and a 19 per cent protein concentrate with nine per cent Hi Pro Soya on a raising plane from six weeks pre-lambing is beneficial,” said Bryan.

The flock is also now younger. “We cull harder pre-tupping; currently the replacement rate at Southcott stands at 20 per cent,” said Bryan.

“If we have a cull ewe to sell she has value, if she is dead she doesn’t."

The event takes place on Tuesday, 18 June.

For further information and to enter the Next Generation Young Shepherd, Student Shepherd competitions or the fleece and photographic competitions contact Sue Martyn (07967512660;