Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Challenge Sheep Discussion Groups facilitate farmer-to-farmer learning

Hayley King who is Project Manager for the Challenge Sheep project talks about the recent series of discussion groups and how farmer-to-farmer learning is at the centre of the project.

Since launching Challenge Sheep back in September, we’ve now held over 15 launch events and insightful discussion groups with sheep producers around the country. As project manager, my role is to make sure we collect the data that will help us to understand the consequences of the rearing phase on the lifetime performance of ewes. The project will track 9,500 replacements from thirteen English sheep farms over seven years to understand how flock performance can be improved.

In 2018, we’ve held nine discussion groups around the country on our farms, covering a wide range of topics from nutrition in pregnancy, reducing antibiotic use at lambing and lambing losses, as well as talks around the RUMA #ColostrumisGold Campaign. Each meeting is chaired by the farm’s assigned consultant and vet to ensure the topic benefits the producers from the surrounding area. We’ve also invited external speakers to be involved, like Poppy Frater, from the Scottish Agricultural College, who spoke to our Windermere group about the Live Lambs Project, a project that looks at increasing lamb survival rates by 5 per cent.

There has also been much discussion around the data on farm and analysis of the results, this includes a look into scanning results as well as tupping data. All farmers attending the events have been encouraged to bring along their own data for interpretation and have the opportunity to gain advice from AHDB and the farm vets and consultants.

As project manager the discussion results have been really beneficial as they’ve helped me to understand more about our farms and the story behind their data. However our farmers are learning more each day through farmer-to-farmer learning. Sam Jones, one of our challenge sheep farmers, has found that he’s learnt at least one new thing at every meeting, which makes the meeting valuable for not only himself but the others involved.

The discussion groups offer producers a platform to share their advice on situations where others may need help and also an opportunity to learn from those around them about the management of their flock.

We’ve got more groups throughout the year and would encourage sheep producers to get involved and join in the conversation. The next series of meeting will take place in the summer.

Want to find out more information about your local Challenge Sheep Farm? Information about the project and the farms taking part can be found on the AHDB Beef & Lamb website.