Polwarth sheep are amazingly versatile.
The past few seasons we’ve had no autumn break and barely a spring break. Hard cold winters and hot summers making it rough on the sheep and the farmers. So we looked at changing our practices to adapt better to the current feed growth cycles and see if we could improve our productivity. As Polwarth sheep can breed anytime of the year we decided to pull back the breeding season and lamb in March/April. This meant that we would need to do some summer feeding of the ewes leading to lambing and just after, particularly if again, there was no autumn break. Meanwhile 99% of the ewes were preg tested as in lamb and 50% of those were marked with twins. Possibly because of the nice warm weather and the long days we lost very few lambs. There was also a significant lack of predators at that time of year so we only lost 1 lamb that we know of to a fox.
With no autumn break again we opted for early weaning to take the pressure off the ewes. The lambs thrived and didn’t fall back at all. They mostly stayed on pasture for the winter and now in September many are around 40 kgs. with a good 6 cm of wool on them. They will be grown on to around October to get their wool to 8cm before being shorn. We sold some similar lambs wool a few weeks ago that was only 6 cm long and it sold for 2286 c/kg with the top price reported in ‘The Land’ the week before at 2116 c/kg. As they are already well developed lambs it’s expected that they will have a massive growth over spring and be good sized lambs by November. The extra fleece and weight on earlier lambing is a definite benefit from early lambing.
Once the lambs were weaned the ewes were put up on the hill for winter and were just on pasture. They were brought down from the hills and shorn last week (we would have liked to have shorn earlier). The shearers did a great job with hardly a nick on them, it helps that they’re so clean bodied with no wrinkles. They’re in great condition and are all around 3 – 3.5 score and full of energy. They are now in with the rams as we’re going for another early lambing. They’re looking pretty colourful with all the chalk on them so there’s quite a few already cycling.
We felt this worked really well with the additional growth and wool from the lambs, the reduction in losses of lambs, the improved health of the ewes, the better fit to the weather cycles and that the feed bill was so much lower. We could only have done this with our Polwarth Sheep. Having animals that are so adaptive allows us to farm creatively for improved production and efficiency. Here’s some of the older ewes this afternoon as we’d brought them into sheltered paddocks to sit out the cold weather coming in tonight. Seriously awesome sheep!