Robert Hodgkins  -  Using genomic selection technology to advance the development of a ovine maternal breeding line

South of England Agricultural Society

31 year old Sheep farmer from West Sussex.

Locks Farm is a tenanted 1,400 acre farm, most of which is situated within the South Downs National Park. 90% of our grassland in permanent pasture and is the farmed under the South Downs ESA regime where no fertiliser or chemical is permitted, therefore there is very little we can do to manipulate or extend our grazing season.

Productivity of some of the swards would be considered very low – the ESA agreement stipulates an annual maximum stocking rate of 3 ewes per acre. The farm rises up to 783ft above sea level, and field contours range from flat ground at home to steep banks upon the downs.

We are large commercial family run sheep farm running 3000 plus NZ Romney ewes. The farm is a spread out unit (25 miles round trip to visit every flock) on good to mediocre grassland, land class 3-5. We operate a single breed, closed flock and take great care and interest in selecting future progeny to make shepherding as enjoyable and stress free as possible.  We are one of the largest Signet recorded flocks in the country, single sire mating and recording over 1500 ewes and there progeny per year.  We sell high quality, NZ Romney rams and females, this year we have sold around 110 2 tooth rams, and all of the breeding females (800+) we had for sale.

McLamb burgers

A way to increase Domestic consumption of lamb?

Posted by Robert Hodgkins on November 12, 2012

Appears in Livestock

As a slight aside I believe Australia/NZ is only one of two regions in the world were lamb has made it onto the McDonalds menu in the form of a lamb burger. In the interests of consumer testing I decided to buy one and can report back that it tastes great, I was once told a story about a presentation given to farmers by a senior board member of McDonalds explaining how much meat is sourced in the UK by them, social conscience in terms of litter pick for 1 mile around their stores etc.  And at the end of the presentation an old boy farmer got up and “joked” (and I paraphrase) that in terms of nutritional value maybe the best thing the customer could do was to throw away the burger and eat the wrapper.  There is two good points to make about that:

  • McDonalds source 100% of their meat from UK farmers  if the burger really is that poor in nutrition  that’s probably says more about the beef we produce than anything McDonalds do to it.
  • I don’t know figures but I imagine the sheer mass of meat McDonalds buys is huge – what other industry representative would say that to one of their biggest customers? And imagine the consequences if they did just decide to start importing Argentinian beef instead, I imagine that old boy farmer would be first out with a placard on the streets complaining about a lack of support for the UK industry and the very swift collapse of the beef price.

It also got me thinking that in terms of if anyone has approached the European McDonalds to see if they will do a similar thing? I imagine it must be an industry type project for someone like Eblex.  But it would be a great way to try and increase domestic demand for lamb – something that is the Uk at least is falling.    Something to ask Eblex at our next meeting maybe.



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Mark Swift

Dorper and Cropping enterprise

Posted by Robert Hodgkins on November 21, 2012

Appears in Crops, Livestock