What to do when time is the scarcest commodity? (1p sheep enterprise)

Boso

Member
At the moment I have a full time employment, apart from that I have a small pest controle (rats and rabbits) enterprise which I’ve been building and growing since 2013 and which does provide a parttime income at a imho modest €32,50 an hour. Which is also what I aim to achieve with my farming enterprise.
I’ve been farming Geese, sheep, chickens in varying degrees in the last decade. I manage Some woodland, sell a little firewood every year, grow some mushrooms etc.
In the past 4-5 years I’ve been investing what comes out of the pest control enterprise into my farming enterprise to grow in it and make it more professional.

My context concerning sheep is, that the land I graze is free. I do not own it, no taxes and also no rent. Sometimes I get payed to graze land. But as plentiful as the land is, quality is rather poor.
Renting improved pasture is next to impossible, buying Agricultural land is next to impossible (€100k per hectare if available).
The land I can use is unimproved pasture, some improvements can be made (clovers etc) but it will never be dairycow quality grass.
Sometimes the land is fenced and in some cases I have to put up electric nets. All this takes place in and around a 250k inhabitant city, lots of roads, railways, lots of opiniated treehuggers that keep an eye on what you are doing.

I am very interested in being as efficient as I can be. I demand this of my livestock and myself. Discussing and reading about kg meat produced per ha and the breeding to get the most efficient ewe is something I enjoy contemplating about.
However, since my enterprise has grown, the amount of land I have acces to has grown, there are still only 7 days in a week. Which leads me to conclude that in my case the KG of meat produced per FTE is more relevant than per Hectare.

At the moment I run shedders, lamb them every 6-8 months, feed them a little pellets few weeks before and after lambing. Sheep are outside all year, no hay feeding costs at the moment, very little medical costs, no barn, outside lambing. Very low capital input enterprise. I cull heavily for worms, feet, udders. Due to th excellerated breeding I get 200% lambs weaned per ewe. However I do wonder if with such low quality pastures excellerated breeding is the way forward. If I’d be able to able to better meet their nutritional needs I see no problem getting these sheep to 300%.
I’ve been selecting for a somewhat smaller ewe in the past years which means my ewes are in the 45-60 kg range. Sometimes I feel I need a breed or type with a bigger appitite.

What would you do? How would you run a sheep enterprise like this with this specific context?
 
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What do you do with the lambs, how long do they take to reach dw? Low inputs and such intensive lambing is going to affect the health of your ewes, no ewe on rough grazing only can rear triplets and have them doing well, especially not if she's pregnant again having barely reared the previous set of twins. You need to find a balance, as the ewes will burn out if you push them too hard.
 

Boso

Member
The % is not per lambing but weaning on a yearly basis. Triplets per lambing are a no go on these grounds.
All lambs go deadweight to the abattoir, at 22-24 kg deadweight. At €4.5-5.5 per kg. Usually around 6 months old, some stay a bit longer.
Getting them away faster would require bigger ewes and or more feeding which I'm not sure that they would do well on poor grounds?
 
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The % is not per lambing but on a yearly basis. Triplets per lambing are a no go on these grounds.
All lambs go deadweight to the abattoir, at 22-24 kg deadweight. At €4.5-5.5 per kg. Usually around 6 months old, some stay a bit longer.
Getting them away faster would require bigger ewes and or more feeding which I'm not sure that they would do well on poor grounds?
Sounds like your ground is much better than mine! I’m feeding ewes now and will be until the end of April at least!
You lamb every 6/8 months?
 

Boso

Member
Yes the best are able of once every six months. The worst once every 8 months. If I'd breed them once every 12 months the amount of triplets does imho not match my grass.
This year I had acces to 5 hectares which I grazed 30 ewes with their lambs on. I move them once every twee days.
In 2019 I'll get 11 more hectares.
I do feel that if a ewe is too milky and is producing milk for more than 12 weeks this will prevent them from getting in shape again before next lambing.

Have used large small headed Dutch Texel as terminal. Would a charollais do better or would those lambs be to demanding for my ewes? Would maybe bring some easier lambing altough most ewes shoot out those texel lambs anyway.

btw, these results are after having culled very hard for the last years. Some times as hard as up to 30% of the mature ewes and year.

Looking at your UK Hill sheep crosses I sometimes wonder if more, but less prolific, sheep would be better in my case.
I've always liked what I've read around here about shetland crosses apart from being escape artists.
 
Sorry I think you are wanting too much from your sheep.

Not good publicity for the industry.

Mules can be very fertile indeed on good land 230% scanning not unusual. Prone to prolapse and mastitis though when performing at a high level.
 

Boso

Member
The shedders have a lot of Barbados Blackbelly blood. They are naturally aseasonal.

It wasn't my goal to make it an excellerated lambing thread. I'd like your help and insight how you'd use the ground/farm given the context. I'm not matried tot excellerated lambing☺
Would you do things different?

The sheep look just fine. If used in an excellerated way I do not breed them as ewe lambs but give them some extra time to grow. After that four years of excellerated breeding after that back to once every 12 months.

Like I said, not married to a certain approach. If a less prolific breed would be a better fit I don't mind. I don't think trying to achieve maximum efficiency within any given context is bad publicity, it's the biggest challenge for our industry. However maximum achievable efficiency will of course vary in every enterprise given the available time, land etc.
When time and forage quality are your biggest restraints what would you do?

Since a lot of you have experience with Hill breeds which perform well on the type of land I have I'm really interested in your approach.

Btw this is not a no care enterprise, check them daily, move them every two days on average.

Thanks for your input!
 
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Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
My context is reasonably similar to your own, other than the accelerated lambing which is something we are working towards.
Your pasture productivity "issue" - is this a real issue, or an imaginary issue?
Likewise, our young ewes are 'weaning' a bit over 200% but that is with one lambing per year - my thoughts are that you will get better overall results forgetting your "per ewe" efficiency as less relevant than your per hectare efficiency.
Landscape goals require more animals per landscape and this can (but doesn't mean must) mean sacrificing a little individual performance, sometimes

You are definitely on the right course, as it comes down to placing heavy selection pressure on them for anything that incurs a loss of time, or requires an input.

Your comment on triplets not fitting your system, quite a common one, but they need be no extra work for you - they are the ewe's "problem", and if you can consistently feed the ewe then there should be no problem?

But the answer to all, is to stop the sheepwork, as you have already done, and be patient and confident that the rest will happen. It does everywhere else!
 
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Boso

Member
Thanks for your thoughts.

Concerning the pasture quality, at the moment I feel it is a real issue. I can and will improve them where possible. The grazing is also improving them.

My issue with triplets is mainly linked to the pasture quality. I have no other reason why I don't like triplets. I feel with the grass I have for the ewe to feed triplets and be in an excellerated program would be a very big ask. If I would supplement their diet this would not be a problem.
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
I know it seems counterproductive to suggest from a time POV, but you have two opposing things going on re biodiversity - ie pasture that is too diverse to be managed by animals that have no diversity.

Is it feasible to add maybe even a couple of calves to your mob? Just to act as topping machines over the summer, quit them when you're done with them (forget the money aspect for now).

The thing is, if you push sheep together then competition occurs, that is natural behaviour. But if a sheeps worst enemy is another sheep, her best mate maybe an ex-dairy cow: you get different effects with different size chisels.

So maybe that is something you can do to improve your pasture quality while you are at work?
We have more of a bull-beef grassfed ranch type of operation, hence the sheep are living better off the bulls, and the bulls are eating better because of the sheep.. you need more tools, in my opinion at least.
Hopefully tb monitoring and yarding can be avoided if you keep younger or shortterm cattle, as I used to do.
 
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Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
Screenshot_20181209-112932_Chrome.jpg

http://snowlinerangerkelso.co.nz/Snowline/snowline.html
These are typical of what we would call low-input sheep aka "hill sheep"?
Bloody good sheep, anyway, I am hoping they will wean about 2.3 lambs as M/A ewes as we had a challenging summer lasy year and they shone.

(Of course, you can add all the inputs you like, to make yourself feel good about numbers, but that is down to personal choice)
 

Boso

Member
The sheep look very nice. A lot like Swifter sheep (prolific, maternal, myomax, bare tail/patch etc) Are they romney x texel? Dairy bull/steer also looks full.
I run an egg enterprise after the sheep on some of the pastures. I've ran a donkey ( predator control) with the sheep which I can put back in.
We've got cattle to work with in the Woods. They stay at home.
 
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Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
I wish they were all like her: gave me twins as a yearling, now has 3 lambs totalling 114 kg @100 days. She's a bit under 80kgs.
I want to test accelerated lambing to see if I up the production, or simply up the workload!!

But in my (our) type of operation where you haven't got all day to fluff around - consolidation of your livestock is great leverage. The less mobs, less walking/driving between mobs, and the greater the herd impact and symbiosis between the stock and the plants and the soil. And then the plants improve, the soil improves, and the animals do much better!

I think the key to grazing is as high a stock density as possible, as many moves as possible, and only take the tops of the plants as that is the best of it.
 
Sorry I think you are wanting too much from your sheep.

Not good publicity for the industry.

Mules can be very fertile indeed on good land 230% scanning not unusual. Prone to prolapse and mastitis though when performing at a high level.
What makes you think they are expecting to much of their sheep? Good performance from relatively low inputs, if the sheep were suffering then I'm sure the tree huggers would have been bleating by now.
Mules are the classic case of not expecting enough from our sheep, why persevere with a sheep that is prone to prolapse and mastitis, that is bad publicity for the industry.
 

unlacedgecko

Member
Livestock Farmer
What makes you think they are expecting to much of their sheep? Good performance from relatively low inputs, if the sheep were suffering then I'm sure the tree huggers would have been bleating by now.
Mules are the classic case of not expecting enough from our sheep, why persevere with a sheep that is prone to prolapse and mastitis, that is bad publicity for the industry.

And bad feet.
 

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