With pressures of a growing flock and current uncertainties for the business with Brexit, there is a real need for Flock Manager, Martyn Fletcher alongside owners, Perin and Sonya Dineley, at Dineley Farms to ensure all aspects of the business are cost effective and efficient whilst maintaining high welfare and productivity.
“The success of the flock relies on remaining profitable, for me this includes always keeping an eye on cost of production, questioning how efficient we are working, refining the flocks’ genetics and monitoring sheep health and productivity.”
says Mr Fletcher.
Dineley Farmimg is a closed system with 1800 acres spread over three farm sites. In just three years, the flock size has nearly doubled from 1700 to 3000 ewes plus replacements. The breeding flock is predominantly New Zealand Romneys, with a stud flock of New Zealand Suffolks and Romneys. The farm is solely forage-based with all outdoor lambing, as part of a thorough flock health plan they are conducting their own on-farm Faecal Egg Counting (FEC) and have started to use this to map worm burdens across the farm.
Marginal gains with longer blowfly control
“To improve the bigger picture, it is necessary to look at the detail of all farm activity and start to make changes that will start to make a difference,”
says Mr Fletcher. “One of the biggest impacts on daily live weight gain (DLWG) is blowfly and once sheep are on the back foot they’re more susceptible to other parasites too. Blowfly treatment is a key part of our flock health plan, and ensuring proper coverage has been essential for our rapid growth.”
Considering where management could be made easier Dineley Farming has found a preventative treatment schedule to be instrumental in maintaining efficiency. “For us, it is essential to get the right treatment with effective cover, otherwise we have to spend too much time checking stock and looking for the odd sheep with early signs of strike. Not only is it impractical, but the risk to productivity and time are not worth cutting corners.”
Realising they could benefit from a product with longer cover for the 1,000 replacements that are out on a very extensive block, Dineley Farming chose to trial switching from a CLiK and Crovect in a season to the new CLiK EXTRA. “There just isn’t time for a fly problem. With all the replacements shorn in May, we need to treat and forget them, happy in the knowledge that they are fully covered until the autumn. We used just one application, and it gave the whole season’s cover right the way through to Autumn, a full 19 weeks and it proved to be cost-effective. We’ll apply it next year without a doubt.”
“Not only does it make sense for the management and reducing our time input from two product applications to one. The fact that the cost was actually less made the decision simple.”
“By reviewing our product usage, we have saved 26 pence per sheep, reduced a couple of days work regathering for the second application and reduced any risk of product breakdowns part way through the season which could impact productivity.”
“Yes, there are cheaper alternatives out there but our product decisions are made on full input costs and ultimately how effective the product is not just pack price. Time spent catching one or two animals and their resulting lack of productivity means that, by the end of the season, you’ve not saved any money at all. Nobody wants to run around after sheep and deal with that stress, and then deal with the effect on productivity.”
Dineley Farming has made some big changes in the last three years, but the logistics of running the three sites properly is an ongoing challenge. Mr Fletcher is firm that long-term thinking and investment is crucial. “We definitely wouldn’t want to be thinking merely short-term. We wouldn’t be looking to cut corners, it’s not worth pushing your luck. Questioning everything you do and why is essential – measurement and data collection is key to this. Then you need to start to make changes that will impact overall flock efficiency and ultimately will ensure the long-term profitability of the farm.”