Lambing at Lower Highfield is in full swing now with the majority of the earlies having lambed to the Suffolk and the main flock just starting to lamb to the Texel. Thankfully the weather (at least at the time of writing!) is not too bad meaning that the ewes and lambs can be turned out quite quickly after lambing which always makes the job a bit easier. Suffolk lambs at Lower HighfieldThe Suffolk lambs will be monitored in terms of weight and performance to determine whether or not the use of the high EBV tups has had any effect or not. So far Malcolm and Judith have been pleased with how the lambs look, but as Carol Davis (EBLEX) pointed out at the Open Day, it is the performance of the lambs not how they look which is the driver of profitability.
Since the meeting back in November where Gavin Hill from SAC spoke to the business group about the importance of tightening the calving pattern and how this can affect profitability, Malcolm and Judith have bitten the bullet so to speak and got rid of the barren cows and those that were not due to calve in line with the rest.
The first couple of Simmental calves have just arrived, with the bulk of the herd due to calve from mid April through to late June.
There are also eight replacement heifers which were bought as calves and reared by Malcolm and Judith’s son James which are due to be put to the bull later this summer. In terms of trials being carried out this year, the main focus will be on determining the most cost-effective way of dealing with the trace element deficiency in the stock. New lambs at Lower HighfieldSo far all the ewes have been drenched as usual pre-tupping and pre-lambing.
Lamb performance will be monitored to see whether or not the two treatments differ in their effects.
With the main flock, the lambs are going to be randomly split into four groups at weaning with each group being treated differently.


Hopefully by the end of this trial we should have a much better idea of the best way to go about treating the deficiency in the future.
Whilst we were discussing this trial with Lesley Stubbings and talking about monitoring weights and growth rates Malcolm mentioned that the weigh scales they are currently using were perhaps not the most accurate, and that for a trial such as this it would perhaps be a good idea to invest in some digital scales. As the lamb enters the crate the Psion will read the tag and identify that particular lamb, and then the weight of that lamb will automatically be stored against its unique identity. Hopefully this will make the job so much easier and weighing will potentially be a one-man job. The scales should arrive sometime in April so they will be there for everyone to see in action at the next meeting. Soil samples have just been taken on those fields that were tested a few years back to see how their status is progressing and whether further work is needed to improve the soil further. The soil is also going to be tested for trace elements to help build up a better picture of the status of the land. On the back of how successful this has been, Malcolm has just ordered a new grass harrow with a seed box on so that he can improve more of the permanent pasture in this way in the future. The grass cages that were provided by EBLEX last summer are going to be set up around the farm this year to monitor the grass growth in different areas. The benefit of this will be two-fold – first it will allow us to build up a forage budget so that we can see how much grass is available and ultimately the optimum numbers of stock the farm is capable of carrying, and secondly it will provide visual proof of how much more grass can be grown from a reseed compared to a permanent pasture. It is all well and good figures in books showing farmers the benefits of reseeding but it has a much greater impact when you can actually see it for yourself.


2011 is already proving to be a very busy year at Lower Highfield and we are only 3 months in. We will have a farm walk looking at Fiddle Case field and also some of the Suffolk lambs, and a group exercise where we will decide whether or not Malcolm and Judith should grow turnips again for finishing lambs. The old Simmental bull has been sold this year so young Amos will be psyching himself up for a busy summer! The early-lambing ewes have been drenched with one of two drenches and their lambs are going to be treated with the same drench as their mothers.
A sample of lambs from each group will be weighed at regular intervals to determine growth rates for comparative purposes.
Since then we have been looking into this in more detail to decide what would be the best option to go for.
The Fiddle case field which was overseeded last year is looking really well and has greened up nicely. It will be another evening meeting as these seem to attract the best attendance (or could that be a result of Julia’s infamous hotpot?!) at Lower Highfield.
In the end we have decided to hire an EID compatible weigh crate which will work with the Psion handheld.



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