The recent Hampshire Down open day was blessed with both beautiful weather and the presence of one of its most distinguished past breeders – Terry Robinson who is now in his 98th year.
The event was hosted by Mr Peter and Frances Lawson at Glenbrook Farm, Baillies Mills, from where Terry’s original farming enterprise was based.
Peter had purchased the farm from Terry on his retirement some 23 years ago and in his early years farming there Terry’s wife, Babs, had been an ardent producer of the Hampshire breed.
Peter is now principally running a quality commercial lamb enterprise from the farm, based on a March lambing flock and the aim is to finish off grass without meal and with minimum other inputs. The current commercial flock numbers about 200 head with plans to grow following a grass improvement program and a major fence replacement exercise.
Peter explained while sharing his experiences with more than 60 visitors that this year’s grass growth had been very challenging for March lambing and had resulted in the necessity of feeding of supplements this year. In future he is considering moving to April lambing to ensure adequate grass is always in front of the flock.
Apart from this problem he has been happy with the performance of the lamb crop principally sired by Hampshire down rams. The Hampshire ram was selected as the breed best suited to achieving the farms goal of producing a quality carcass finished off grass on a minimum cost system.
In addition to the farm enterprise presentation, there were various active workshops.
AB Europe was represented by Gareth Beacom who discussed with the group modern breeding methods designed to maximise genetic improvements within the sheep industry.
Gortavoy Farm Feeds & Farm Supplies of Pomeroy were represented by Barry Holland, sales, and Stephen McKenna. Stephen is the company nutritionist and explained to the group in basic terms the essential requirements for a producer to consider when selecting his supplement feeds whether for pre or post lambing performance.
Jonathan Fletcher MRCVS from Lurgan Vets presented the need for a correctly designed health flock program and encouraged producers to talk to their vets to design such a program to their needs. As part of a health program he explained to the group several of the various vaccines that are now available to help breeders avoid expensive disease outbreaks. Additionally he demonstrated correct vaccination procedures.
For the number of pedigree breeders that were present the well known Charolais breeder Jim Bell presented a selection of hoggets and discussed the finer points of carcass assessment when selecting replacement ewes for the flock or for showing. This was followed by a demonstration and discussion with the very successful showman Trevor Bell on how to show sheep to impress the judge. This included a very interesting discussion with a group of English breeders that made the trip over for the open day who were particularly interested in Trevor’s techniques.
Following the workshops Peter and his farm manager Sean Doyle offered two spit roasted lambs for everyone to taste and enjoy. The Hampshire cross lambs are particularly succulent and good tasting due to the natural marbling of the flesh.
Coincidentally it was Terry Robinson’s 98th birthday and this was celebrated in style with a birthday cake and ‘champagne’.
The club is particularly grateful to Peter and Frances Lawson for their generous hospitality and to Sean Doyle, the Farm Manager, for all his hard work in preparation. Also to the presenters of the various workshops for their time and knowledge.