Rodway Farm Flock Visit May 2012
On a sunny Saturday May 12th Llanwenog breeders from across England and Wales met at Rodway Farm, Cannington for their traditional spring flock visit by kind invitation of Mr. Steve Jones (Farm Manager). This was their first opportunity to view the new Llanwenog flock established in partnership with Bridgwater College and to discuss its future direction.
The flock was established during August 2011 with the purchase of 42 ewes in flock ages from the Langley (M. Greenslade, Wiveliscombe) and Nell (C. Horton, Cirencester) flocks. The farming system at Rodway provides an ideal environment for sheep to flourish as there is always an abundance of clean aftermath grazing available. The Llanwenogs responded accordingly and by the time they were put to a Charollais ram on October 18th, they were all in excellent condition and their inherent docility and good conformation were evident.
The visit started with a lively discussion led by Steve Jones and Martin Heal (IT/Farm Management Lecturer) about progress to date, potential outcomes of the project and issues that had arisen. Martin Heal explained the computerised flock recording system now in place consisting of a stand-alone electronic tag reader with memory and hand held computer both downloadable to accompanying computer software. This would allow for easy recording of all physical and financial performance with selected data being able to be accessed readily. In this way the Llanwenog flock could be compared with the existing Texel cross flock already on the farm and other comparative trial work could be undertaken. Society members emphasised the importance to them of being able to obtain independent data about the breed and that any comparison with the existing flock should include a comparison of stocking rates achieved and hence profit per acre which ultimately is the all important figure. As with any new flock there is a learning curve and views were exchanged about the correct housing period prior to lambing, diet density during the housing period, reduction of losses at lambing and the choice of ram breed. In respect of the latter Steve Jones suggested that a Texel ram might be better for the Llanwenogs but this could be resolved by increasing the flock size to 60 and putting 30 each to the Charollais and Texel as a comparative trial. In any event a larger flock would mean any results would be more reliable.
On moving outside Martin Heal gave a live demonstration using the tag reader and emphasised that for any number of sheep they needed to be run through a race. To read a tag takes about five seconds so effective control of the sheep is necessary. The system used had been chosen for its potential robustness and would be evaluated over a number of years.
And finally on to seeing the sheep themselves. Llanwenogs and their Charollais cross lambs were running alongside the existing Texel cross ewes and their Texel sired lambs. The former certainly compared very favourably with the latter and this was born out by average lamb weights at 50 days with lambs from Llanwenogs being about one kilo heavier.
Our thanks are due to Steve Jones and Martin Heal for laying on a well organised and informative visit. The society looks forward to the information that will flow from this project and the many students and visitors to Rodway who will be introduced to the breed. Equally the society hopes the college will benefit from an additional teaching resource and the scope for trial work and that this will bring publicity opportunities for both parties. Collaboration is very much the order of the day.