Performance from Grass
We started the Lowerye flock in 1991, with the purchase of a handful of in-lamb ewes from flock dispersals. Like many others, they were bought with a view to breeding our own rams, having seen what a tremendous terminal sire the Charollais breed was when used over our commercial ewe flock.
Numbers multiplied over the next few years, with the purchase of select individiuals, the most significant of which was a shearling ewe bred in John Hunter's Cairnhill flock, FX1023. Extensive flushing programs were carried out with that ewe, and subsequently her descendants, and many of the current flock can be traced back to her.
When the flock got to about 20 ewes, I considered that we either needed to expand the flock significantly and 'do the job properly', or it would make more sense economically to disperse the flock and go back to buying in rams. Obviously I chose the former, and the flock has since grown into one of the largest flocks in the breed. We peaked at around 220 pedigree ewes and currently lamb around 200 females.
Previous trips to the big ram sales at Kelso and Builth Wells, convinced me that the best business model was to produce large numbers of crossing tups, which is still the primary aim of the flock, rather than aiming to produce the 'next big thing' for the limited (and fickle) pedigree market. If we sell a few to other pedigree flocks, then I consider that to be a bonus, but the main output from the flock is sold to produce prime lambs from commercial ewes, that will finish at 40-45 kg liveweight on a forage diet. I believe that is one of the only ways that lamb production is sustainable, and what I strive to do in my own commercial flock.
In the early days, we used to attend several shows each year, but I haven't shown since 2005, when we won both the ram lamb and ewe lambs classes at the Three Counties Show at Malvern. Although a great social craic, I personally don't believe that judging artificially preened and pumped up animals in a show ring, is any way to judge an animal's genetic merit. Others obvioulsy have a differing view, to which they are entitled.
We began performance recording with Signet in 1992, bought our first recorded ram (AP3029) in 1993, and have been using those records as an additional selection tool ever since.