The TXL Day Out staged by the Society’s Youth Development Programme on Sunday 18th November 2018 drew a crowd of nearly 100 to Carlisle’s Borderway Mart for an action-packed day of interactive learning and fun.
Central to the event were a series of workshop sessions with leading industry experts on a number of key subjects, including flock health planning, grassland management and sheep nutrition.
The day also gave attendees the chance to try their hand at stock judging and see dynamic butcher Tom Wood demonstrate some novel cuts of lamb to extract value from a carcass.
Kicking off the day was local vet Philip Wilkinson of Paragon Vets who detailed how flock health planning should be used to maximise animal health and minimise the need for reactionary treatments. “The principle behind flock health planning is to implement planned preventative treatments and put in place protocols to deal with situations that arise.
“This can help improve productivity, reduce time spent dealing with health problems and minimise losses,” he explained.
Mr Wilkinson said use of vaccines to prevent abortion and clostridial diseases were a central part of preventative medicine as was taking steps to reduce the use of antibiotics. “There are some instances where antibiotics are of course required.
“However, many flocks have developed a routine of using preventative antibiotics as routine, particularly at lambing to prevent watery mouth. This can be avoided when lambs receive sufficient colostrum and hygiene in the lambing environment is maintained at suitable levels,” he added.
Independent sheep consultant Kate Philips said it was important to ensure ewes were in correct condition ahead of lambing to enable them to produce sufficient colostrum for lambs and that came back to them being in the right condition at tupping.
“Body condition scoring ewes is a tool every farmer should be using four or five times a year to assess how fit their ewes are. It is proven that body condition score at tupping has an impact on prolificacy and with the number of lambs reared a key factor in flock profitability, having ewes in the right condition at tupping is a determining factor in maintaining a successful business,” she explained.
Adding to this theme was grassland management consultant Gareth Davies who said with the UK industry having to compete on a global stage it was going to be increasingly important to reduce costs wherever possible.
“Grazed grass is by far the cheapest form of feed available to sheep farmers and we have to make the most of it if we are going to compete with sheep farmers in the rest of the world.
“That means adopting rotational grazing strategies and planning grazing more accurately and ensuring grass crops are more proactively managed.”
Turning to more practical matters Jeff and Jennifer Aiken of the Procters flock gave a demonstration on show and sale preparation, with Mr Aiken highlighting the need for breeders to adhere to the Society’s rules regarding dressing and trimming of sheep.
“When washing sheep before an event do it at least three weeks ahead so the fleece has a chance to build up the natural oils again. Washing them too close to the show will take any goodness out of the fleece. Colouring of the fleece should be done in two or three stages, either by spraying or dipping, to build the colour gradually. On the day itself wash the heads and legs to help make them stand out,” he added.
He also advised young members to consider their appearance when showing their sheep. “There is no point having your sheep turned out to perfection and not looking smart yourself,” he explained.
“And once you’re in the show ring the only thing you need to be worrying about is having your sheep stood correctly and keeping your eye on the judge and showing your sheep to them as best you can. Nothing else matters, your sheep and the judge are the only two things you should be concentrating on.”
Butcher Tom Wood told the audience that it was important to produce carcasses with the right meat:bone ratio and balance of meat throughout the carcass.
“Lamb is a great product and can be prepared in a number of versatile ways provided we have the right sort of carcass. I’m looking for well-formed gigots, wide loins and firm shoulders,” he explained.
With modern consumers looking for easier, quicker ways of producing meals Mr Wood demonstrated how a lamb carcass could be prepared in to some innovate products, particularly when seam butchery was used to strip out individual muscles from the carcass.
“It is important to encourage consumers to eat lamb and a number of novel cuts and smaller joints are key to that,” he added.
Winning the under 21 section of the day’s stock judging competition under master judge Gordon Gray of the Ettrick flock, Selkirk, was Robbie Aiken, Lancashire, while the over 21 section was won by Emma Blaylock, Cumbria.
Ready Steady Cook
The event also saw four of the Society’s YDP committee take part in a ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ competition which saw them challenged to produce lamb dishes from scratch in 45 minutes.
Triumphing in this competition were the combined English and Welsh team of Jo Smith and Will Davis, beating their rivals David McKerrow Jnr and David Chestnutt in the combined Scottish and Northern Irish team.