Three years ago I was looking for an improved maternal line to add to the flock of 420 ewes and 100 hoggs which are carried on 115 acres at Trelabe. Home bred for 30 years, originally Longwool cross Finn Dorset, various breeds have been used to create a prolific, white faced flock with Ile De France and Meatlinc in recent years. However although the conformation was good, lambing %’s were falling and as I get older I wanted something that needed less “intervention”!
In 2008 I went to a meeting hosted by Rissington Breedline, a New Zealand genetics company who are also breeders of Stabiliser cattle. They were promoting their composite maternal sheep breed the Highlander, a three way cross of Romney, New Zealand Texel and Finn. The science behind the animals was impressive, DNA profiling, selection for foot rot resistance, worm resilience and use of the Mycomax muscling gene, plus they were reared on an easy care system. I bought two rams in 2008, 2 more in 2009 and 2010; early impressions were good and in 2010 all the ewes were put to 5 Highlander rams, 1 ram to 85 ewes. Lambing % at turnout was 180%, with the first Highlander two tooth’s rearing 200%.
What have I learnt so far?
- The lambs are quick to their feet and suckle.
- Growth on grass alone is fast ( 2011 crop has grown at 340 grams/ day to 95 days)
- The first two tooth’s are milky and very good mothers.
- With wool prices on the up the fleece is a bonus.
- Foot rot is reducing.
- Slaughter lambs can be taken to 21 kgs without being fat, no O grades but fewer E’s and U’s
I will carry on with the Highlander, next year will see 7/8th animals on the ground so the easy care attributes should be much more prevalent.