At this time of the year, focus moves onto lambing and making sure as many risk are dealt with in advance.
Lots of cleaning of pens, sheds and general equipment to remove any potential biohazards, laying out lambing and maternal sheds to make this relentless time of year run as smoothly as possible.
The general public think that life is just busy at the point of lambing but anyone who has had a baby of their own will know that the birth is just the start of the work!
We focus on ensuring that the ewe nutrition is balanced with what is needed prior to birth to support the number of lambs each ewe is carrying. This is vital for the well being of the ewe and lamb but also financially important with the price of ewe feed at over £400 per ton.
We will begin to lamb on 22nd Feb and will finish on 4th April but thankfully there will be gaps in between the groups to allow for periods of rest and catch up.
Each lamb will receive colostrum from its mother at birth to ensure it has the best start possible. When lambs are born they have no immunity and the colostrum provides initial cover against the nasties that naturally are waiting to harm them. This is THE most critical time as if a lamb gets a bad start it very rarely recovers, as a result there is pressure to get it right during a very busy time.
The postman arrived with the ear tags today, this always focuses the mind as it confirms that the countdown in on to lambing!
Paul nervously anticipated this years scanning day. Local reports suggested that the severe drought in the summer of 2022 had negatively impacted earlier lambing flocks and reports of scanning being 15-20% were being talked about.
The first ewe went into the crate and Paul anxiously waited for the result, you could have heard a pin drop! “Twins” said John the scanner, then the next ewe went in, “twins”. By the time that the first ten had been done anxiety levels had reduced slightly (you always have a level of anxiety when working with sheep as they will always find a way to surprise!).
As the last ewe left the crate there was an enormous level of relief as the results were the best scanning that the flock has ever had 181%. This included two empty 6/7 year old ewes who were given the opportunity to go to the ram one final time due to what they have contributed to the flock.
Our breeding and selection decisions over the last ten years have been made very commercially. We want fast growing, easy fleshing progeny that are born easily to milky mothers and we want twins. It was therefore pleasing to see that over 75% of the ewes in lamb had scanned with twins.
Now time to focus on keeping the ewes in the best possible condition and getting them ready to lamb in February.
They still have time to provide a nasty surprise, the next risk is getting onto their backs due to being heavily in lamb, so a close watch will be needed!
The Texel Sheep Society was on winning form at the NSA Sheep Event at Malvern in July.
After a four year break the Kimbolton Flock was one of four flocks that provided sheep for the Texel Society tradestand.
Four gimmer ewes by 7,000gn Hilltop Cobra were provided and were much admired with some very pleasing comments received.
The trade stand was judged best trade stand and the sheep also triumphed being awarded the first prize for best pen of sheep at the event.
Speaking at the event Paul said “after such a long break from the last show, there was an excellent atmosphere and much positivity from everyone that I spoke to about what the breed and also the Kimbolton flock is trying to achieve”
Over the last seven years the Kimbolton Flock has supplied our genetics to a number of key research projects. These projects have ranged in focus from improving welfare (eg mastitis and foot rot) to improving the eating experience.
One of these projects was focussed on finding out if Intramuscular fat could be measured using visible and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR) in an abattoir environment.
Intramuscular fat (IMF) is an important proxy for the eating experience of meat as the correct levels of IMF increase succulence and juiceness but too much makes it taste fatty. In recent years Wagyu in Beef has seen a surge in popularity and this is a great example of a highly marbled meat with a great eating experience that has high levels of IMF. It is therefore not surprising that a similar eating experience could be achieved for lamb.
However, continental breeds of sheep are renowned for their lean carcass and high killing out %, so how can you get a carcasse that has the right amount of subcutaneous fat but with high levels of IMF? Well that is the easy bit – use the right combination of sire and dam but the hard bit is measuring IMF levels in a meat processor at line speed as traditional methods are slow and expensive. Without this measurement there is no way to provide continual feedback to breeders so that they can make informed breeding decisions.
This project bred lambs from a range of Texel sires including ones selected from the Kimbolton flock. These were finished on grass and then sent in batches for slaughter where their loins were then analysed with IMF levels being measured using NIR.
The project found that:
Visible and near-infrared spectroscopy can predict intramuscular fat in lamb loins.
Spectroscopic predictions can be taken in an abattoir on intact meat cuts.
Meat quality predictions could feed back in the supply chain to inform breeding.
This could mean in the future IMF measurements get incorporated into a quality assurance scheme as the tools developed and proved during this project show there is a feasible measurement method. Of course only time will tell if this happens. In the meanwhile the Kimbolton flock is utilising the breeding values that are produced by the Texelplus evaluations to try to increase IMF levels in the Kimbolton flock.
What a year 2020 has been, if lambing wasn’t exciting enough with the storms and floods, then lock down, then a heatwave!
Despite all of that the sheep have quietly got on with it and we have now sold out for 2020 earlier than ever before.
With the advent of COVID many buyers visited early to secure their choice of genetics taking advantage of viewing the Rams and Ewes on farm in their natural clothes whilst maintaining social distancing.
This method of purchasing is different to buying at auction but has the massive benefit of being able to see all of the animals for sale as well as the parents and the system they were reared in. This is very different to just seeing a pen of animals on sale day that you have decided to take to that particular sale. Many buyers commented that this was a much more three dimensional experience which they found highly valuable.
As a result we would like like to thank all of our customers, both old and new and wish them luck with their purchases.
If you are still looking for something for this year we have a tremendous range of semen for sale (details can be found on the For Sale page), and if you are still looking for a Ram give Paul a call on 07730 700390 as he may be able to put you in touch with other flocks with suitable stock for sale that use Kimbolton genetics.
Now to focus on getting the ewes back in lamb – another year gone!
It is with a heavy heart that we announce that sadly CAP died today aged thirteen and a half.
He has been an intrinsic part of the family and flock since we were lucky enought to buy him from our neighbour Derek Lloyd (who in his lifetime won the National twice).
CAP was a rare blend of a family dog and a determined and capable worker who didnt take any nonsense from the sheep. He would move the largest of Rams or the smallest of lambs all with care and compassion. Many visitors have commented on him when they came to look at the sheep as he quickly got them rounded up and under control without the need for hurdles!
He was one of those rare dogs who would do what ever you asked of him and the bond that was created between us was truly special. 100% loyal and dependable you have been my dog of a lifetime.
Thank you CAP, rest peacefully, I hope we get to meet again.