Three step nutrition approach delivers sheep success on the Isle of Mull

18 Jun 2018

Antium Farm is home to Fiona Boa, who with her semi-retired parents Hugh and Lorna run 2,000 acres at Dervaig in the Isle of Mull, off the West coast of Scotland. The family have been on the site for the past 40 years, where they currently keep 40 suckler cows, 30 pigs and around 600 ewes. Due to the nature of the land the majority of the sheep are kept out on the hill, amongst the bracken and heather. The flock comprises of 350 Cheviots, (of which 100 are kept on lower land), 150 cross ewes and 150 Blackface. Tups are purchased from Dingwall Mart, with Texel and Beltex/Texel selected for the cross ewes.

The topography of the land doesn’t allow for cereals to be grown so the farm have always been dependent on a mix of cake and concentrates, with hay bought around July. Fiona was first introduced to the Harbro 3 step nutrition solution for sheep two years ago under the recommendation of the Harbro Corpach store manager Ewan Cameron which she feeds to her best Cheviots. The buckets represent a convenient way to ensure the nutritional requirements of the flock are met throughout the year.

Fiona puts mineral lick bucket Feet, Fertility & Worms out pre-tupping, making sure the flock have easy access to it. The essential minerals and vitamins in the bucket mean the high nutritional requirements of the ewe are met during this crucial time and ensures the ewes are in optimum condition pre-tupping. One key ingredient in the formula is choline which plays an essential role in switching on certain genes that are essential for health and vitality.

Fiona first started scanning three years ago and has found this to be an invaluable tool in targeting the feed where it is most required. This last season saw the best Cheviots scanned in February with each one in lamb; Fiona remarked that they had not had such a result in the 40 years of breeding on the farm. With a lambing percentage of 114% and very few lost, she attributes the lambing success solely to the introduction of the bucket as nothing else in the farm management has changed. The bucket has also meant that the farm have managed to delay putting concentrates out, holding back to the winter. Fiona plans to sell her Blackfaces this year and hopes that as a result she will see an uplift in lambing percentages even further.

This last winter has been long and cold and Fiona has fed Energyze Forage Booster to ensure energy requirements are met and to supplement forage which has been particularly lacking in quality this season. The active ingredients in the bucket which include Sel-plex, choline and vitamin E help to support the early stages of foetal growth and development. During late pregnancy, the Cheviots move on to Energyze Vitality which enables the high nutritional demands of the ewe to be met at this crucial time. It is introduced pre-lambing and is kept out until the grass becomes more plentiful. With benefits including a reduced risk of twin lamb disease, improvement in colostrum quality along with helping produce strong healthy lambs, this energy bucket supports both the ewe and lamb during the lambing season.

After a short break from the buckets in the summer, there is just a short period of time before Fiona re-introduces Feet, Fertility & Worms again ahead of tupping; and so the cycle continues. Fiona remarks, “I’ve been delighted with the results of the three step approach on my Cheviots, with our lambing percentage and number of ewes in lamb having risen steadily since we first introduced the buckets two years ago. Looking ahead we plan to roll the approach out to the rest of the sheep as we aim to increase the overall performance of the flock even further.”

On the pig side of the business, the farm have had great success with their Large White Boars which are fed with Harbro weaner, finisher and progen rolls. Around 50 pigs a year are slaughtered and butchered on the island before being sold to local shops and restaurants throughout Mull and on the mainland. The family are renowned for the quality of their meat and are involved at each stage of the process with Fiona even delivering the sausages! The carbon footprint of the operation is kept to the bare minimum which is also a key selling point to potential customers.

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