By Debbie James

A Gwynedd sheep enterprise has lambed its 1,400-ewe flock under one roof after investing in new housing.

The clear span shed at Gwythrian, Aberdaron, was purpose built for lambing while having flexibility for finishing beef cattle too.

The £250,000 investment has transformed lambing, admits Alan Williams, who farms with his wife, Catrin, and their three sons, Dafydd, Wiliam and Ieuan.

The family farm 780 acres and have expanded the sheep and beef enterprises in recent years which meant investing in facilities to improve efficiency and performance.

Pregnant ewes were previously housed in four separate buildings but, as some of these were not well designed for lambing, this put a strain on labour and flock health, says Mr Williams.

The new shed, with its 20 lambing pens and 150 small pens, has the capacity to hold 850 ewes – the Suffolk x Mule flock is lambed in two groups.

The flock is housed according to the weather but mostly it is in the second week of December.

There are three, 200ft feed passages which allows for the feeding of a total mixed ration (TMR).

This system means that ewes always have feed in front of them and there is no stress at feeding times so they are a lot healthier.

“Having feed constantly available means that the shy feeders get plenty of feed too,’’ says Mr Williams.

The ewes are fed once a day, in the morning, and the silage is pushed up twice during the day.

The first group lambs in the first three weeks of February followed by the shearlings and the ewes that repeat at tupping.

The lambing pens are positioned next to the individual pens so there is only a short distance to move the animals between the pens.

The Williamses had been planning the shed for five years so they had the opportunity to select some of the best ideas from sheds on other farms they visited during that time.

They secured a Welsh Government sustainable production grant to fund 40 per cent of the project but say they would still have built a shed without the funding, although not on this scale.

They also had grant funding for a new feed store which they built in the same year and support for an extension on an existing barn to incorporate a covered manure store.

“All the straights for the sheep and the cattle are kept in bays in the feed store and we mix indoors which has reduced waste,’’ says Mr Williams.

“We previously had to mix outside and a lot of the feed would blow away in the wind.’’

A quarter of the shed for housing ewes has a plastic slatted floor with a four-foot deep underground manure tank. Foot health has been good on the slats and less straw is used.

“We didn’t have slats in all the pens because they are specifically for sheep and we want to use half the shed for housing cattle when it is not in use for lambing,’’ says Mr Williams.

Cost was another consideration – it cost £25,000 to slat the area that was covered.

Since the shed was built the sheep system is more profitable because it is not as labour intensive and there are fewer losses.

“We are there 24/7 during lambing – we have a farm worker, Dafydd Williams, who does the night shift – so can keep a close eye on things,’’ says Mr Williams.