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Sustainable Sheep Systems

The 2020 QMS Sheep Enterprise Profitability data found that the margin returned per ewe on Upland LFA units ranged from a loss of £10.59/head to a profit of £19.79/head between the bottom and top third producers. Combine already tight margins with reduced subsidy payments on the horizon and a global focus on producing meat in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly manor and you have a recipe for ‘change required’.

As an industry, we must focus on both the technical and financial performance within the flock to become, and remain resilient through any post Brexit trade barriers and potential changes to farm subsidy regimes. QMS data showed that lowering variable input costs had a greater impact on the higher gross margin realised by the top third than higher output levels.

Improvements in technical performance whilst reducing variable costs can offer significant opportunities in Scottish sheep flocks through the correct grazing, management and genetics. This ‘Sustainable Sheep Systems’ series will cover a variety of topics throughout the 2021 production year to provide the advice and tools required to make changes required for a more sustainable system that can absorb periods of volatility as old and new trade deals, consumption patterns and Covid 19 impacts the industry.

Aberfield Nucleus Ewes and Lambs


A round up of the Sustainable Sheep Systems series with highlights and tips from the excellent speakers featured on the series’ run of webinars and podcasts as well as detailed information notes. The series covered all aspects of sheep production – breeding, nutrition, grazing, management and disease control.  Read here>>

Online Events

Simple Colourful Before and After Color Grade (5)

Grazing Ewes For Productive Flocks (2022)

In this webinar, recorded on 8th September, Daniel Stout and Poppy Frater of SACs GrazeUp provide a recap on the grazing principals and discuss effective grazing management of ewes from weaning to tupping to winter to optimise performance of pasture.

Grazing Lambs for Productive Flocks (2022)

In this webinar, recorded on 13th September, Daniel Stout and Poppy Frater of SACs GrazeUp discuss best practice management and grazing strategies for breeding ewe hoggs and finishing lambs for optimal performance off forage based systems.


Grazing Principles for Productive Flocks (2022)

In this webinar, recorded on 26th May, Poppy Frater and Daniel Stout of SAC’s GrazeUp discuss the core principles of effective grazing management to optimise pasture growth and utilisation, maintain pasture quality through the seasons and promote ewe and lamb performance.


Utilising Forage Crops to Reduce Winter Crops (2022)

In this webinar, recorded on the 19th May, SAC specialist Kirsten Williams covers the practicalities and benefits of growing a forage crop to reduce reliance on purchased feeds in the winter as well as providing grass with a rest period for optimum spring performance.


Breeding & Feeding For Sustainable Sheep Systems (2021)

In this webinar, Dewi Jones, CEO of Innovis, will discuss how they have developed a low cost productive sheep system that achieves high levels of livestock performance from a forage only diet. Dewi will discuss the importance of grassland management and designing a system that suits grass availability, outdoor lambing, low cost wintering systems including forage crops and how they have developed functional performance recorded sheep genetics that thrive on this system.

Sustainable Sheep Systems “Ewe are what ewe eat” (2021)

In this webinar, Nutritionist Mary Young (SAC Consulting), covers a range of options to help manage this balance including ewe energy requirements pre-lambing, forage quality, feed availability, the use of mineral buckets and how to calculate forage budgeting.

Two's Company Three Doesn't Have To Be A Crowd (2021)

Do you have your scanning results, too many triplets, dreading feeding pet lambs?  Considering breeding the hoggs or want to make a better job of it?  Then this is webinar is for you.  We explored management practices to get the most out of breeding ewe hoggs and optimise performance of triplet bearing and rearing ewes.

Strategic Worming - The Early Bird Catches The Worm (2021)

The 2021 lamb crop are now the ground, the next task is keeping them in good health to allow them to thrive to their best potential. Ensuring they have a reduced disease burden is paramount to maximising growth rates and meeting sale target dates and weights to improve profitability.  Changing weather patterns can cause a variance in egg hatching dates and the slower grass growth this spring may increase the ingestion of larvae earlier.

Opportunities in the Halal Sector for Farmers (2021)

In this webinar Awal Fuseini, AHDB Halal Sector Manager gives producers an insight into the importance of the growing Halal sector within the UK. He gives some tips on what producers can do to target these premium prices.

Opening The Door To Outdoor Lambing (2021)

In this webinar, Sean Cursiter of Laga Farm will discuss how they have set up a new flock dedicated to outdoor lambing and how they have developed the system to achieve strong performance with low cost and low loss.  Sean has plenty of tips and tricks for outdoor lambing preparation, tried and tested in the North Isles of Orkney.  A real testing ground for outdoor lambing.

Spring Grazing and Fertiliser - The Proof is in the Planning (2022)

In this webinar SAC specialists Lorna Galloway and Poppy Frater discuss soil health, good nutrient management practices and strategic grazing plan options to reduce reliance on purchased inorganic fertilisers, whilst optimising grass growth and livestock performance to futureproof the sustainability of sheep enterprises.


Toxoplasmosis is the second most common cause of abortion in ewes in the UK behind EAE. This factsheet is part of the Sustainable Sheep Systems series and covers what causes Toxoplasmosis, how it is transmitted and details what control measures can be put in place to prevent the spread of infection to minimise losses within the flock. Read more>>
Enzootic abortion of ewes (EAE) is the most common infectious cause of abortion in sheep in the UK. This factsheet is part of the Sustainable Sheep Systems series and covers what causes EAE, how it is transmitted and details what control measures can be put in place to prevent the spread of infection to minimise losses within the flock. Read more>>
Anthelmintic Resistance to wormers is increasing and is one the biggest challenges within the sheep industry, impacting the health and profitability of many flocks. Minimising the risk of worm burdens and resistance to treatments ensures that ewes and lambs remain in good health and can achieve optimum growth rates to maximise profitability for long term sustainability. This factsheet is part of the Sustainable Sheep Systems series and looks at how farmers can mitigate the risk of anthelmintic resistance within the flock by implementing simple, cost effective control measures. Read more>>

When to Wean?

Weaning date is a key management tool as it can be used to influence lamb growth rates, ewe body condition score (BCS) and allows more strategic grazing resource allocation. 12-13 weeks of age is found to be the optimal for grass based systems. This factsheet as part of the Sustainable Sheep Systems series and looks at the different factors to consider when selecting weaning date. Read more>>

Technical Note 755: Using Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) In Sheep

Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) are a valuable tool to help us select the best rams based their on genetic merit, independent of environment (eg birth type, feeding level), for profit driving traits. What’s more consider all the traits such as milking ability or prolificacy that cannot be identified by eye but will impact flock performance for years to come - a maternal ram purchased this year could easily have daughters lambing down in the flock 2030. This Technical Note provides an overview of the EBVs and Indexes available, many new, and how to interpret and use them to select the best rams for your flock.  Read more>>

Grass cut for silage

Technical Note 748: Strategic Silage Production For Sheep Systems

The aim of any winter-feeding system is to fill the winter feed deficit and be as low cost as possible, whilst meeting the nutritional requirements of the pregnant ewe to optimise performance and profitability.

Compared to conventional silage/hay and concentrate feed systems, the production of high quality silage from leafy, high digestibility grass provides the opportunity to meet more of the pregnant ewe’s nutritional demands from forage meaning less concentrate feed supplementation is required overall.  Read more>>

Technical Note 747: Recording Lambing Traits

Lamb survival is a major factor in determining the number of lambs reared and so the financial performance of any sheep enterprise. Flock management and nutrition has a significant impact however, there is also a genetic factor to lamb survival making it possible to breed for improved lamb survival. Lambing ease, lamb vigour, lamb birth weight and ewe maternal ability all have a significant influence on lamb survival – selecting for these heritable traits will reduce mortality.  Read more>>

Podcast – Getting On Top Of Lameness

Agricultural Consultant Daniel Stout speaks with Professor Laura Green OBE about how best to get on top of footrot and reduce lameness in the flock. Laura has been involved in a great deal of hugely influential research on lameness, the impact of foot trimming and effective treatment and control of footrot so if you’re struggling with lameness in your flock this podcast is one to listen to. Listen here>>

Podcast - Mastitis

Daniel Stout speaks with Professor Laura Green OBE and Poppy Frater about the latest research on mastitis, the pathogens involved and how we can refine management and nutrition in sheep systems to reduce mastitis risk. If mastitis is a real issue in your flock this podcast is one to listen to. Listen here>>



Podcast - Controlling Liver Fluke

Daniel Stout speaks with Dr Philip Skuce from Moredun Research Institute about liver fluke in sheep. Resistance to triclabendazole, the only flukicide effective against all stages of immature fluke, is on the rise so it’s essential that we develop our understanding of the fluke lifecycle, treatment options at different stages and diagnostics tools to combat this and maintain effective control. Listen here>>

Information Note:  Promoting Lamb Survival Outdoors

In the latest Information Note from the Sustainable Sheep Systems series, we look at research from Australia on lamb survival in outdoor lambing systems. Highlighted is the importance of mob size on lamb survival with the National Lamb Density Project finding a 2% decrease in twin lamb survival for every 100+ ewes in a mob. This is discussed in a Scottish context with targets and tips on how to optimise lamb survival using paddock selection and management decisions.  Read more>>

Information Note: Successful Management of Triplet Rearing Ewes and Breeding Hoggs

Breeding ewe hoggs and managing ewes for more triplets/better triplet performance can lead to increased flock output and profitability.  However, if poorly managed, triplet bearing ewes and the breeding of hoggs can lead to poor lamb survival, disappointing lamb performance and impact future performance of the hogg.  Read more>>

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