We’ve recently welcomed in some Highlander sheep to Low Sizergh Farm. Whilst it was normal to find dairy farmers raising sheep as breeding stock or producing lambs forty years ago, it is now far less common. So, why have we decided to increase the number of sheep grazing our farmland?
Our previous flock was only 20 sheep, which were used to graze our orchards. More recently, we’ve increased that number tenfold to 200. The increase was in response to requests from the owners of nearby parkland in front of Sizergh Castle and Sedgwick House who were keen for sheep-only grazing.
It’s a secondary enterprise as our main focus remains on the dairy herd and producing milk, but we know that keeping costs low and ensuring that the workload fits will see us generate a return. For instance, spring lambing fits well with our autumn block calving for the herd. We lamb relatively late for a lowland farm with our Tups going in with the sheep on Bonfire Night for lambing to start on April Fools’ Day.
One of the main benefits of keeping sheep on our farm as well as dairy cattle is having different ruminant animals on our sward. The sheep have different parasites to the cows and they can continue to graze the land when it’s wetter during the winter months (and this autumn!). They also graze the grass shorter, and, because the numbers are manageable, there’s no competition with the cows for grazing in spring and early summer.
Our cow breeding has a lot of management data behind it that helps us select the right cow and continually make improvements on the herd traits that are important to Farmer Richard. Our new Highlanders, which are a mix of Finn, Romney and Texel bloodlines bring these traits to the flock.
While Farmer Richard is fairly knowledgeable about sheep there are still too many woolly areas when it comes to sheep dairying! We’re happy to concentrate on skill sharing across livestock for excellence in grazing management but that’s where we’re happy to leave the crossover.