Tuesday, 29 July 2014 11:09
HOW do you make a living from 450 ewes on 70 lowland acres in West Tyrone?
 The key question that drew almost 200 sheep farmers to an AgriSearch farm walk hosted by Isaac Crilly of Lislaird, Castlederg. The answer, Isaac explained, is to maximise your kilos of lamb sold per ewe and above all per acre.
Isaac Crilly takes questions during the AgriSearch farm walk.
 “A U grade lamb returns an extra £2 over a run of the mill R grade, but producing an extra 0.1kg lambs weaned per ewe means another £8 so carcass quality is not our key consideration,” Isaac revealed.
 Closely involved in AFBI on farm research selected for support by producers through AgriSearch Isaac‘s 2013 sales averaged 1.58 lambs per ewe, including ewe lambs. 19kg carcasses averaging £119 a piece to leave a benchmarked gross margin per ha of £548. An impressive £170 per ha more than the NI benchmarked average thanks to high stocking rates.
At the AgriSearch event farmers showed tremendous interest in breeding systems used to produce this impressive profit.  Isaac has Belclare, NZ Suffolk and Meatlinc rams put to composite ewes and is one of five producers involved in an AFBI, Hillsborough rotational breeding investigation.
 Findings from this work on selecting ewe replacements demonstrated the potential of using composite ewes in terms of production efficiency, that is, lamb output per kg ewe.
The benefits of selecting homegrown ewe replacements, as well as terminal sires, on performance records rather than looks alone were clear to see on the bottom line of this impressive farm business.
With limited acreage Isaac and Elizabeth Crilly make no silage so ewes are fed only on grass, straw and concentrate thus showing that silage is not the only option in the winter sheep menu! However, silage quality generated an excellent discussion between visiting farmers, CAFRE advisors and AFBI scientists. 
 To view a booklet produced for the Crilly farm walk browse www.agrisearch.org or ph; (028) 8778 9770.

Isaac Crilly at the AgriSearch farm walk.
Isaac and Elizabeth Crilly run 450 March April lambing ewes on 28.3ha, 70 acres. 
Stocking rate 19 ewes per ha.
2013 output 567kg carcass per ha.
Hosting AFBI on farm research for 15 years
Increasingly sheep research projects have been those selected for support by farmers through AgriSearch.