Huw Owen, Sandilands Farm, Gwynedd.
Buyers trust in the profits these quality, minimal waste lambs leave.
Beltex crosses are fulfilling the butchers’ market specification for lean 45kg finished lambs with a high killing out percentage, consistently realising 205p/kg and topping the market at Welshpool Livestock Sales, according to Huw Owen who farms the 1,500 acre coastal grassland unit, Sandilands Farm in Tywyn, Gwynedd, in partnership with his father Bryn, and brother Geraint.
Huw explained: “After handling a few Beltex rams at shows and seeing in market the premiums their lambs realised we thought we could be on to something good, buying our first rams in 2008. Five years on and half of the 2,000 ewe flock, which comprises 80% Texel cross Mule genetics, is put to the Beltex to produce finished lambs that are small framed with minimal waste and more conformation than other continental sires we have used in the past.”
The first draft of lambs is away at 12 weeks, finished mainly off grazed grass with supplementary creep. “We always wean the week after the Royal Welsh Show at 16 weeks old and target having all the lambs sold by December. However, due to the breed’s ability to produce lean lambs with quality carcases and which don’t go stale quickly, we can play the market, hanging on to lambs if prices are down in order to maximise profits.”
Lambing takes place from early March for six weeks. “We lamb indoors to give the grazing a rest; ewes come in a month prior to lambing and are turned out with lambs at foot.” He continued: “This helps keep lamb losses to a minimum; we scanned at 194% and reared 192%, however that’s mainly down to the breed’s ability to leave very sharp, smaller size lambs on the ground with a good skin, and that are up and suckling quickly.”
Huw believes that careful selection of rams using visual and supporting data is crucial to maximising outputs. “The priority is buying a ram with as big a gigot as the budget allows, along with a long wide loin, good skin and size - we don’t want anything too large-framed. Good mobility and correctness are also vital.” He continued: “Where available we do look at Signet performance data, paying attention to muscle and back fat depth estimated breeding values (EBVs) as well as eight week weight.”
Convinced of the impact that Beltex has had on his commercial flock, Huw helped his 15 year old son Dafydd establish the pedigree Dysynni flock in 2010. “They’re such a great breed to work with; we thought it would be a good place for Dafydd to get started in livestock production. The flock carries 20 pedigree ewes with a view to producing our own rams to use over the commercial flock as well as surplus that we can sell.
“Dafydd has really got into showing and has been rewarded with reserve breed champion titles at several local shows. He is also looking to introduce Signet performance recording in the future to more accurately select those breed characteristics that appeal to commercial ram buyers.”
He adds: “Beltex works for me because it leaves lambs on the ground that fulfil the specifications of the butchers’ trade, selling consistently at the top or within the top 5% at market and delivering a premium. Buyers trust in the profits these quality, minimal waste lambs leave.”