SHEEP - Energyzing the flock with buckets and grass
6 Feb 2018
Andrew Cullens, along with his brother Ian and father James, manage Dollarbank Farm outside Dollar, central Scotland. Andrew is a fourth generation farmer on the tenanted 3,000 acre estate which has been in the family since 1912. Their hill location is home to 2,100 breeding ewes which are mainly Blackface with some Scotch mule. Due to the landscape, the farm is predominantly laid to grass.
Dollarbank is also home to 80 suckler cows, a herd of limousin cross and charolais cross, most of which calve in the spring with calves sold in the Stirling marts at 6-8 months old.
Utilising the land to the best of its advantage, most of the farm’s 1,900 Blackies are left on the hill throughout the year, with the exception of the older ewes and twins which are brought down to lower parks in time for lambing. Andrew finds the hill ewes lamb better left out, benefitting from less human interference and not being disturbed by general activity on farm. Pre-tupping, they are brought in to better pasture to ensure they are in prime condition for the lambing period ahead. The 200 Scotch mules are kept on lower ground all year round.
For both breeds, Andrew uses the energy bucket approach to best utilise forage, with the hill ewes relying solely on grass and buckets for nutritional support. The hill location lends itself to this less manual approach and the Cullens find there are many additional advantages. The flock have access to buckets all year round, with David Allan, Harbro sheep specialist having initially recommended Feet, Fertility and Worms before and during tupping to help combat foot health issues and to aid fertility. In the run up to lambing, the farm move on to Energyze Vitality buckets which are put out to provide instant energy for the flock and supplement any existing forage deficiencies. As much as 75% of birth mass develops in the final six weeks of pregnancy therefore it is crucial in this period, for both ewe and lamb health, that the nutritional demands are being met. Andrew attributes his low incidence of Twin Lamb Disease in recent years to feeding the Vitality bucket, with the key ingredient making the difference being propylene glycol, which maintains the ewe’s blood glucose levels and in turn helps to prevent the disease.
These buckets remain out throughout lambing, with Andrew waiting until grazing quality improves and ewe health is sufficient that supplementing is no longer required. Selling the majority of mule ewe lambs in August, the Cullens keep a small number of mules and all of the blackface ewe lambs to replenish their homebred flock. All other lambs are finished between June and March, aiming to get some away every week. To save the grass on farm, the hogs are wintered on a nearby site. The bottom end are finished on Maxammon Tri-Star 16% nuts, Andrew finds that this rumen friendly product allows him to safely push slower lambs to achieve good finishing weights. The high energy properties of the compound have been designed to enable the animal to achieve optimum growth and performance with high feed efficiency.
The farm continually strives to improve both the quality as well as the quantity of their flock as they attempt to gain advantage in what is an uncertain and sometimes flat market. As Andrew prays for kind March weather in the run up to this year’s lambing, he reiterates that his mantra of ensuring access to good quality grazing and mineral/energy buckets is fundamental towards a successful lambing.