Breeding and feeding is the key to success at Wedderburn

Our Clover Premium Ewe 18 plays a key role in ewe nutrition at Wedderburn Farm, Huntly run by Jim and Alyson Hunter and their son Sandy.

The farm with its 1000 ewe flock is located in the Glens of Foudland, known as one of the most unhospitable areas in Aberdeenshire in wintertime and the Blackface ewes lamb outside in the harshest of conditions. The 400 acre farm ranges from 800ft up to 1300ft at the top of the hill with the majority laid to grass.

Sandy is the third generation of the Hunter family with his grandfather Willie having purchased the farm back in the 1940s. “There have always been sheep here. The Blackfaces were originally crossed with the Border Leicester to breed Greyfaces, before moving to cross them with Bluefaced Leicesters to breed Scotch Mules.”

“We have 400 Blackfaces ewes bred pure and 300 Blackface ewes put to the Bluefaced Leicester tup.  200 Scotch Mules are put to the Suffolk with males lambs finished on farm and ewe lambs kept as recipients. The remaining 100 ewes are Bluefaced Leicesters, Texel and recipients for carrying embryos.”

“Our aim is to be as self-sufficient as possible, breeding all our own Blackfaces and Bluefaced Leicesters. We buy in Suffolk tups and to keep the genetics fresh, new Blackface and Bluefaced Leicester stock tups are bought annually.”

Tups are bought on their merits and what is required on farm. “In a Blackface tup, we’re looking for a sheep with good structure and a bit of length.  In Texels and Bluefaced Leicesters, we’re always looking for something a bit different that’ll bring a little X factor to the flock.”

“Over the years, we’ve noted that Suffolks with nice, smooth, silky black hair, crossed with the Scotch Mules produce ewes that milk the best and are the best mothers. We’ve also found that a sheep with right, tight skin will always be a better sheep, whether for breeding or finishing.”

Wedderburn’s Texel tup lambs sell at Huntly, Lanark and Worcester with shearlings for the commercial market sold at Huntly. Bluefaced Leicester tup lambs sell at Hawes in Yorkshire and Carlisle with shearlings at Huntly and Stirling. Blackface shearlings go through the rings at Dingwall and Fort William.

“We have had some success on our first outings to sales at Worcester and Hawes so we’ll just keep aiming to improve our sheep for these new markets.”

Longstanding customers, the Hunters have used Clover Premium Ewe 18 for ‘as long as they can remember’, with Ian Anderson providing Harbro support for all the livestock which includes a pedigree Limousin herd.

Ian stresses the importance of quality ewe feed in how it sets up the lamb for its lifetime performance. “Feeding ewes right ahead of lambing time helps quality and quantity of both colostrum and milk which then influences lamb growth. This means we get robust and resilient animals which thrive, grow and finish better.” says Ian.

“Premium Ewe is fed to all our sheep, Blackfaces, Mules, pedigrees and recipient ewes. For us, we find it is a good all-rounder. It does well for everything – whether it is for maintenance or feeding a bit more for milk – it ideal for all jobs and for all breeds.” says Sandy.

Lambing inside starts in mid-February with pedigrees and embryo recipients, then Mules in April. All the Blackfaces lamb outside from early April into May.

“We are quite heavily stocked here and rent some grazing but the majority of the breeding ewes are kept in the Glens. We rely heavily on homegrown silage for feeding from December through to lambing, with ewes scanned in the last week of January. We start feeding in February depending on condition. Ewes get fed for a solid month after lambing and possibly longer according to grass growth.” Keeping good nutrition into the ewes once they lamb keeps them milky and the lambs growing on.

“For twins and triplets, we have found that feeding a lesser rate over a longer time works best for us rather than a larger amount closer to lambing.” Once scanned, the ewes are batched and remain batched in the same fields where they receive Premium Ewe along with silage, molasses and Energyze Vitality licks.  Sandy says “This regime keeps the ewes content and in good condition. It allows our remaining fields to have plenty fresh grass for ewes once they lamb, to keep them going and milking better.”

Blackface ewes carrying singles receive silage and Vitality buckets and a little Premium Ewe if they are on the lean side.

“We have very few cases of Twin Lamb – I could count them on one hand – and I put that down to the ewes having what they need. We find with feeding Premium Ewe, the ewes have plenty milk and the lambs have vigour. If the ewes are in milk, it’ll take a lot of bad weather to put them down.”

“The Blackfaces and Scotch Mules have the genetic vigour, the hardiness, are more likely to survive outside, have mothering ability and the lambs get up and get sucking.”

“We have the genetics but you need the feed – and we use Premium Ewe 18 – to bring out their full potential.”



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