Focus on reproduction management in Shetland

Ensuring high fertility levels in suckler cows and selection of breeding rams are two of the subjects which will be covered at the next Shetland Monitor Farm meeting at Bigton on Sunday, October 7.

Rod McKenzie from Muirton Farm, Munlochy, on the Black Isle, will lead a discussion on the selection of breeding tups.

Tups

McKenzie, a well-known Cheviot breeder who has been involved in promoting performance recording in sheep since 1988, will highlight the value of using Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) in conjunction with visual and physical assessments when selecting tups.

McKenzie will also offer some guidance on dressing tups for sale, which will be followed by a hands-on, practical exercise on ram selection featuring Suffolk, Cheviot and Shetland tups.

Host farmers Kirsty and Aimee Budge are keen to increase the productivity of their flock of 280 Shetland cross Cheviot ewes.

“Improving the performance of our sheep flock is one of the main opportunities highlighted by the benchmarking carried out as part of the Monitor Farm process,” said Kirsty.

“Selecting tups with the right characteristics and traits, which will perform well in our flock is obviously key to boosting fertility levels and ultimately lamb numbers and quality.”

Cattle management

Cattle management topics will also be covered at the meeting.

Derek Hanton, senior consultant from SAC Consulting, Inverness, will discuss the nutritional requirements of both cows and growing cattle, and look at the rationing options to ensure optimum performance over the winter months.

“Achieving target growth rates for calves is key to the profitability of store cattle systems; but perhaps even more important is making sure that cows overwinter well and are in the right condition come calving time next spring,” said Hanton.

Getting the ration right in terms of meeting requirements and cost effectiveness is a key element of maximising the bottom line for sucker systems.

Kirsty and Aimee Budge will also update the group on developments at Bigton since the last meeting, including the barley trial plots and the lessons from the 2018 grazing season.

Monitor Farm

The Shetland Monitor Farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.

The aim of the programme, which is funded by Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

The meeting on Sunday, October 7, which is free to attend, will begin at Bigton Hall at 11:00am. Lunch will be provided, and the meeting will finish at approximately 3:00pm.

To book your attendance (and lunch) please contact Graham Fraser, SAC Consulting Lerwick on 01595-693520.

For those interested, more information about the Monitor Farm programme can be found on the Monitor Farm website.