Quality nutrition underpins top performance in pedigree flock

Spend five minutes with Arwyn Thomas and you’ll quickly get an appreciation for his passion for producing the very best Charollais breeding stock.

“I’ve always been fascinated with livestock. It’s all to do with pedigree breeding. It’s the challenge of breeding perfection and the competitive element where you want to breed the best and make the most money,” he said.

His daily drive has paid off in the sales ring, with his Arbryn Flock recently setting a new record for the breed at Hereford Market. His homebred ewe, Arbryn 20WRF00701 topped the sale at 7,000gns.

She is an Artnagullion Turbo daughter and is in-lamb having been artificially inseminated to the 10,000gn Loanhead Washington. In fact, Arwyn’s ewes took the top four sale prices on the day, with a full sister to the sale leader selling for 3,400gns.

Most of the in-lamb female and ewe lambs produced from the 60 ewe flock are sold at the Charollais High Flyers Sale at Hereford, whilst a growing number are also exported to Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Arwyn and wife Jane originally set up the Arjane flock 31 years ago. However, after deciding to take a break to travel the world, they decided to disperse the flock. Sadly, illness put the brakes on any travel.

In 2012 they decided to start the Arbryn Flock. Arwyn had kept 20 embryos by Penrhos Ibanez from the original flock and used these as the foundation for the new flock. “He had tremendous presence, style, good skin and he handled well and transmitted well to his progeny,” Arwyn said.

Since then, the flock has grown using tups, embryos and artificial insemination, with Arwyn always keen to “never stand still” by buying in selective new blood lines annually.

Arwyn believes producing commercial type animals is “vital” and sells about 30 commercial tups every year, either privately or at Builth NSA sale.

With that in mind, his selection is focused on producing animals that finish well off grass. In fact, all his ewe lambs are out on tack over winter. “I do look for reasonably high levels of fat finish on them when CT scanning as that’s the animal that will finish off grass,” he said.

Getting ewe nutrition right around lambing is also seen as vital, with ewes scanned and then split and fed according to how many lambs they are carrying. The flock lambs in December allowing ram lambs to be fit for purpose to work the following year.

Arwyn fed Mole Valley Farmers’ Premier 18 ewe nuts for 20 years and saw good results. However, about two years ago, Mole Valley Farmers’ Feed Specialist James Evans suggested moving to Prestige 20 ewe nuts to take performance to the next level.

It is a fixed formulation, high energy, quality feed that includes the top ingredients available, including Megalac. It’s designed for sheep producers targeting lambing percentages of 175% plus.

Ewes are fed this, along with haylage from six weeks pre-lambing to seven post lambing. Arwyn said: “I want to get the best opportunity for top performance. And it’s critical pre-birth and the first eight weeks that they get a good start. It determines the rest of their life.

“The product is appetising and the ewes don’t scour on it. They look healthy and it’s a balanced diet for them. It’s good for the rumen. They also milk very well on it,” he said. “The quality of the colostrum was better and the liveweight gain up to eight weeks of age was better. Because the colostrum was better you were left with a healthier lamb.”

This all combines to help hit target lamb growth rates of 40kg by eight weeks old. Arwyn said although more expensive, the Prestige nut was higher quality so they ate less, adding the ewes milked well making it worth the investment.

Asked why he chooses Mole Valley Farmers for his ewe feed, Arwyn said: “They offer a very good back up service. The admin department is excellent. They notify me when the delivery is coming and check in advance. And the reliability and consistency of service. They’re very professional and consistent.”

For advice on ewe nutrition around lambing, contact the Feed & Nutritionists Line on 01278 444829