Gloucestershire farmer David Martyn explained some of the mysteries behind breeding the perfect sheep to key decision-makers at the county’s sheep farming: unwrapped event.
It was one of the NFU’s series of countryside days, when key stakeholders from local authorities, police forces and other organisations are invited out onto farms to find out more about the challenges facing the industry.
Mr Martyn told the 40 guests – including police officers and politicians – something about the history of Barnage Farm, near Lydney, which has been run by the Martyn family since 1964. Today they have around 400 sheep, mainly Texels and Texel crosses, and grow 146 acres of arable crops, including wheat, oilseed rape and barley.
He said that producing lambs to the right specification and for the right price was a constant challenge, but the hot weather was the main issue at the moment – despite ‘predictable rain’ often being cited as an advantage of the local climate.
Ed Smith from the Texel Society then talked about the many years of work that goes into measuring and improving the genetics of a breed. Mr Smith said that performance management was the ‘backbone of genetic success’, enabling breeders to select stock that met their requirements and those of the breed as a whole, which ultimately would provide better financial returns.
There was an update from NFU chief livestock adviser John Royle and regional policy manager Alex Stevens about the NFU’s work on behalf of the livestock sector, including improving export markets and encouraging producers to take advantage of the Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) for West Country beef and lamb.
The presentations were followed by a farm walk and the chance to see Mr Martyn’s award-winning sheep both in the sheds and out in the field and discuss ways of improving sheep health, with farm vet Philippa Page talking about the importance of taking a preventative approach and seeking advice at an early stage – which apart from anything else is cheaper.