Award winning sheep farm

Oaklands Farm, Church Broughton on the Derbyshire side of the Staffordshire county boundary is a farm of 250 summer acres, plus 1000 acres of winter keep. All but 50 acres rented, it relies heavily on grass, using very few concentrates to feed a ewe flock of 804 and 101 un-tupped breeding lambs. The quality of their management won the champion sheep flock award in 2017 of the Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society.

Daniel and Claire Redfern bought the farm in 1996, which then consisted of 46 acres, the silage pit, hay barn and the old wooden shed , with not an inch of concrete in sight.Things are now very different with two large sheep sheds the main feature. But the ewes do not stay in them for long.

The 804 ewes went to the tups for just 35 days, of which 780 lambed, and in the 2017 lambing year the vet was only called once, to a ewe with dead triplets inside her. Ewes scanned with singles and twins are not fed concentrates pre lambing just haylege and some fodder beet. Feed relies entirely on grazed grass from the winter grazing. If it is grazed out they are moved, in a few cases three or four times, plus the use of feed buckets, such as Rumenco, where daughter Davinia works.

They are normally brought inside for just two weeks before lambing and fed on haylege, but the constant rain this year has meant they have been inside longer. Most of the ewes lambing are not fed concentrates The total feed bill for 800 lambing ewes in the 2017 lambing season was 12 tonnes of Carrs Billington concentrates and two tonnes of creep feed.

Ewes with triplets(82) and those of the 178 ewe lambs scanned for twins,(63) were fed for a month before lambing. Started on 1lb but quickly rising to 2lbs. Ewes when housed are grouped according to scanning results.

Results showed 344 Mule type shearlings and older ewes put to a Texel tup scanned at 186 per cent, with just 16 barren. The 173 two and three shear ewes put to a Cheviot scanned at 210 per cent, with none barren, and the 103 pure Cheviot ewes put to Blue Faced Leicester tups scanned at 167% with 9 barren. The 178 Cheviot Mule and Texel x ewe lambs scanned 131 per cent, with the 63 doubles and 3 triplet mothers fed before and after lambing., The 99 single bearing ewe lamb mothers were not concentrate fed. Just 13 were barren.

At lambing from around March 15th, Danny, and sons Sam and Dan are on duty in three shifts, 24 hours a day They usually leave a ewe to lamb on her own, and certainly leave a ewe lamb lambing, time to relax her muscles and not interfere before the head and legs appear. Once she has lambed they are taken to a nearby row of 30 metal hurdle lambing pens, filling every other pen to start with, to avoid wrong bonding taking place. Then within 12 hours that row is emptied and moved out so it can be Surgene disinfected.

"Hygiene is everything,” says Danny.

Their fostering technique is to put a new lamb, dry or still wet, to the ewe as she is lambing her single, hiding the ewe’s lamb behind her as it comes out, until she has taken to the adopted lamb. Falsely lambing the supposed second lamb if need be, This works nine times out of ten says son Dan.

Triplet ewes or ewe lambs with doubles are fed at grass until the lambs are taking creep, then it is withdrawn. Decox buckets are put out for the lambs.

Preferable they are moved straight out to grass after lambing at about four ewes to the acre, supplemented if necessary with fodder beet and haylage, but if the weather is bad they are found a place on the yard, hurdled, or in their big cattle trailer, for a day or two.

All ewes are Heptovac P vacccinated, and ewe lambs vaccinated against enzootic abortion and toxoplasma. Ewes are wormed twice a year one with a treatment against fluke. Lambs are wormed every five to six weeks. Ewes are kept up to the age of six.Cheviots are being tried to avoid the foot problems they have had with Texels. Ewe lambs are tagged in line with the Welsh Mule Society colours.

Lambs are sold from August on, unless the trade is very good. The aim to get more than £80 for a lamb, many going dead weight to St Merion. At least 200 ewe lambs are sold each year for breeding.

Both sons are expert hedge layers and laid 900 metres of their hedge, and 1100 metres of fence under the stewardship scheme last winter. Three log cabins have also been built, usually rented out on a short week basis to families or groups of friends, with the attraction being the inbuilt hot tubs. They were also early onto the benefit of erecting a long length of ground based 10kw solar panels, with a 25 year payment.

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