Third generation farmer William Halford, in partnership with his mother Andrea and wife Rebecca manage The Halford Partnership farm at Common Farm Kempsey Worcester and have established themselves as Suffolk x mule breeding champions over the years. Winning champion pens at the key Hogg, Lamb and Yearling sales with Suffolk x Mules in Worcestershire, Herefordshire, and Shropshire markets.
The farm is located south of Worcester on the edge of Kempsey Common and extends to a hundred and twenty acres along with grazing rights on the common and additional rented grazing throughout the year.
The business is based solely on sheep farming with a flock of 2,700 North Country Mule ewes which are crossed with Suffolk rams. In addition, the best and strongest 1,300 Suffolk cross mule ewe lambs are retained each year and tupped with a Charolais with approximately 600 sold as Hoggs and lambs each spring, and the remainder sold as yearlings in the autumn.
The ewes and lambs are kept on grass in the summer and autumn, with winter roots and dairy grazing used in the winter. Ewes are housed from February ahead of lambing within the straw pens. They are fed good quality ewe rolls with an ME in excess of 13.6, provided ad-lib haylage and straw and extra energy mineral buckets.
Lambing starts from 5th March for ewes and the hoggs start from 26th March. All sheep are lambed indoors and Suffolk x mule lambs will be up on their feet suckling very quickly. They are turned out within twelve hours of being lambed straight to fresh grass and will stand the weather better than other breeds.
By mid-April lambing is finished and all the flock will be out on grass. The big wether lambs will receive a creep feed in fields to finish at 45kg. Will Halford commented “we have found that the Suffolk lambs respond well to creep feeding better than continental bred lambs as the Suffolks grow faster and finish quicker whilst maintaining excellent finish. Our aim is to sell hoggs and lambs to add value because the Suffolk x Mule ewe is very popular as they breed easy fleshing lambs when crossed with any terminal sire. The Suffolk wether lambs are sold fat liveweight through McCartneys Worcester at a heavier weight which suits the Suffolk lamb as it will grow to heavier weights without going over fat.”
Replacement Suffolk Rams are purchased from regular vendors at Builth Ram Sale held in September with the aim of each tup serving more than 80 ewes.
The Halford Partnership have found that Suffolk Rams are healthy and have longevity, consequently keeping Ram replacement costs lower than continental bred rams.
“The Suffolk sired lambs tick all the boxes for us and the breed suits our system as they will continue to grow through the summer and autumn on grass and into winter on roots.”Will Halford
Some replacement ewes come from the sales in the North that have already lambed as hoggs. “we are now buying some as ewe lambs to lamb to help manage costs of replacement ewes. The first-time broken mouth ewes are now being tupped and sold as ewes and lambs in the spring to add more value to the older breeding sheep.”
Will Halford went on to say “Suffolk cross lambs definitely tick all the boxes for our farming enterprise. Personally, I think some farmers would benefit from switching to the Suffolk as a sire for the growth rates and added value to the ewe lambs. The Suffolk on the North Country Mule produces a very consistent product – all the lambs are like peas in a pod with good skins and excellent growth rates, not like some of the continental breeds.”