Andrew Smith

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Andy Smith runs a grassland farm on a share-farming basis with the owners of the land.

It has 800 breeding ewes and 50 pedigree South Devon cattle with a focus on producing breeding sheep and cattle capable of thriving on low input pasture systems.

Sheep are rotated around the farm on a one-three day paddock system on a mixture of good quality permanent pasture and herbal leys and are wintered at grass supplemented with silage/hay and bought in fodder beet.

Ewes are shorn twice annually, in mid-August and February, and can be housed for up to six weeks after the February shearing depending on forage availability and weather conditions.

Lambing takes place in April with the ‘elite’ flock lambing 10 days before the main flock.

Teaser rams are used and the aim is to have 85 per cent of the ewes lambed within the first 10 days.

The elite flock is single sire mated and lambs are tagged, weighed and linked to dam and sire within 24 hours. Ewe lambs to be retained are only selected from ewes which lamb in the initial 10-day period.

Breed transition

Data is heavily record throughout and ewes are culled or moved to the commercial flocked depending on the severity of any issues.

The flock is in the process of switching completely to Romneys from North of England Mules which are lighter and perform better on an all grass system, allowing more sheep to be kept on the same area of ground. It also enables breeding stock to be sold as well as fat lambs. The aim is to breed with as many ewe lambs as possible to increase the number of lambs born without increasing livestock units.

Cattle are a relatively recent addition to the farm and are used to graze poorer quality grazing and north facing steep slopes and to tidy up paddocks after sheep.

The longer term aim is as numbers grow and sheep and cattle livestock numbers become equal, the farm will be divided into two blocks, alternating between sheep and cattle year on year.