Producing lambs for direct selling
Young farmer Toby Dean started his business, the Cambridge Lamb Company, under two years ago with 30 ewes to test the market for selling butchered lamb in the Cambridge area. He has now grown the flock to 170 breeding ewes, the majority of which are Texel X, with a few Aberfield ewes plus some Pedigree Texels to breed replacements and tups for selling.
“The tup goes in on November 5th aiming for lambing from the beginning of April onwards. Last year the majority of ewes lambed in the first three weeks, so it was a busy time. We don’t usually synchronise the ewes at all but I used a teaser ram on the ewe lambs to make their 2019 lambing season more compacted.
“I had a crop of about 270 lambs last year and reared 11 surplus lambs. We had five sets of triplets last year, so I took one lamb off each ewe. We’ve also had problems such as ewes rejecting one of her twins, or a ewe not quite having enough milk for rearing twins. I ran out of Lamlac suddenly and could only get hold of another brand. It was very poor compared to Lamlac; it didn’t mix as well in hot or cold water and I’ve definitely seen an improvement in lamb performance since putting them back onto my preferred choice of powder.
“I take the lambs to a butcher in the village and sell them directly to the customer as whole, half or quarter lamb boxes. This year I’ve had enquiries from restaurants and cafes in Cambridge, and we sometimes sell whole lambs to barbeque companies. I kill the lambs once they reach at least 42-44kg and aim for 22-26kg deadweight. I start feeding rolled and crimped barley in September but don’t push the lambs to reach a certain weight by a certain time; keeping it a relaxed process retains the flavour and quality that the customers love.
“I’m going to keep growing the business and hope to build up to a flock of 500 ewes within six years. This is all dependent on securing enough land and grazing. It can be tricky not having that element of security that comes with owning land, but I’ve built really good relationships with landowners so far, and I’m confident that I can keep building the business.”