Gimmer lambs: To feed or not to feed?!

Ryan Whyte – Commercial Feed Manager and Sheep Specialist at Carr’s Billington – offers valuable advice on cost-effectively feeding and preparing your gimmer lambs for sale.  

A hot topic in the farming field right now is the viability of feeding gimmer lambs ready for sale, given the higher-than-normal input costs we’re facing as an industry.  

So, the key question we’re facing, is can we feed to develop growth, frame, and bloom at a cost that benefits margins? Is it worth creep feeding lambs?!

Mule gimmers, gimmer hogs, ewe lambs or hoggets are breeding stock typically bred and raised in the uplands in the first part of the year, for lowland farmers to crossbreed fat lambs from in the second part of the year.

The young female breeding lambs are usually fed from weaning – around this time of year – to ensure they are in prime condition for sale in the next few months. With weaning can

come a level of stress that can impact on growth rates. We want to ensure young lambs are going forward well and without a cost that eats too much into our profit margin.

To feed or not to feed, stacking it up

Here at Carr’s Billington, we’ve made trough or snacker feeding not just affordable, but a must, for maximising your breeding stock returns this season, and we’ve done this without compromising our formulation.

Feeding half a kilo of our newly formulated gimmers lamb feed daily for 8-weeks, from weaning to sale, will only cost you from £10.64 per lamb. We’ve formulated our sheep feed prices per tonne to make economic sense.

This Carr’s Billington feed is available as an A-MAIZE-ING GIMMER LAMB COARSE MIX or as a GIMMER LAMB NUT, this is a cost-effective and high-quality prime sheep feed mix specifically designed to achieve growth, frame, and bloom in gimmer lambs:

  • Soya offering a quality 16% protein for high level skeletal and muscle growth.
  • Maize that is high in energy and starch helping to promote a healthy bloom.
  • Minerals that promote optimum bone structure and growth.
  • Sugar beet pulp offering a balanced source of high energy and digestible fibre for a good frame (GIMMER LAMB NUT only).

Here’s how the price of lamb creep feed stacks up, with Carr’s Billington:

Feed cost per tonne £375
Feed cost per kilo £0.37
Feed rate (kg/day) 0.50
Feed cost per day £0.19
Feed cost per week £1.33
Total cost (8-week period) £10.64 per lamb


GIMMERS can also be fed at rate 0.75kg/lamb/day for a total of £15.75 for an 8-week period.

How to stay a step ahead of lamb growth and development:

  1. Keep on top of any feet problems that can cause stress, reduce trough visits and time feeding at trough, and affect overall performance.
  2. Look out for the signs of parasites (scouring and dirty back ends) that can impact feed conversion efficiency and treat as quickly as possible.
  3. Consider drenching with Superselco to boost vitamin and mineral levels to support the immune system against weaning stress.

View upcoming gimmer lamb shows and sales on the NEMSA website.

For specialist advice on preparing your gimmers lambs for sale, please call or WhatsApp:

Yorkshire & Derbyshire – Ryan Whyte on 07801 564024

Northern England – James Chapman on 07808 092556

Be prepared: Red diesel rules are changing

From 1 April 2022, the rules surrounding rebated diesel (also known as red diesel) and rebated biofuels are changing. Make sure you are in the know:

What is red diesel?

Red diesel is the same as regular diesel but intended for registered off road vehicles and machinery only. It is dyed red, to help identify illegal use. Red diesel is taxed at a lower rate and there are legal requirements about when and how you can use it.

What’s changing?

From 1 April 2022, we will only be able to supply red diesel for the following applications (as stated by

  • for vehicles and machinery used in agriculture, horticulture, fish farming and forestry. This includes allowing vehicles used for agriculture to be used for cutting verges and hedges, snow clearance and gritting roads
  • to propel passenger, freight or maintenance vehicles designed to run on rail tracks
  • for heating and electricity generation in non-commercial premises – this includes the heating of homes and buildings such as places of worship, hospitals and townhalls; off-grid power generation; and non-propulsion uses on permanently-moored houseboats
  • for maintaining community amateur sports clubs as well as golf courses (including activities such as ground maintenance, and the heating and lighting of clubhouses, changing rooms etc.)
  • as fuel for all marine craft refuelling and operating in the UK (including fishing and water freight industries), except for propelling private pleasure craft in Northern Ireland
  • for powering the machinery (including caravans) of travelling fairs and circuses

What does this mean for my business?

This depends on your industry and what you are using red diesel for. If you are covered by the above points, you can continue as normal.

If your business does not fall into the above categories you will need to prepare for significant cost increases. For example, those dealing in construction, manufacturing, transport or logistics will need to switch to regular white diesel, also known as DERV.

Government advice states that there will be no “grace period” to allow businesses to use up remaining diesel past the cut off date of 1 April 2022. Be aware that non-compliance could result in on-site spot checks and fines.

You may also want to consider flushing out your existing tank when switching to white diesel, so no trace of rebated fuel can be found.

Why can construction no longer use red diesel?

This change is part of the UK Government’s strategy to meet climate targets, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. By taxing more users at the standard rate, the government hopes to incentivise businesses to invest more in cleaner alternatives like electric vehicles, HVO and to burn less fuel.

Read more at >>

Time4Transitioning: A guide to improving transition cow comfort

Transition cows typically have lower immune systems compared to that of the milking herd, making them vulnerable to disease such as ketosis, mastitis, metritis and milk fever.

Stress before, at and post-calving can make them even more susceptible to issues, as can factors caused by environmental influences. So, ensuring dairy cow comfort is prioritised by improving housing conditions, will help reduce health issues brought on through stress and set them up for subsequent milk production.

Methods to reduce transition cow stress and improve comfort

Feed space

Ensuring 85cm to 1m of feed trough space per cow (slightly more than the target 75cm in-milk cow space) will help to reduce stress by limiting aggressive interactions between cows.

Adequate feed space will also encourage greater feeding activity to ensure optimum body condition scores and rumen fill are achieved. This is important to prevent metabolic disorders pre-and post-calving and ensure cows are not under or overweight which could cause difficulties at calving.

Water troughs

Dehydration is a significant issue in cows post-calving causing a reduction in feed intakes. Freshly calved cows can drink 20L of water or more.

Aim for 10cm water trough space per cow, with one drinking point per 20 cows. This will reduce competition and stress, enabling adequate intakes. Water troughs should be clean, with a flow rate to encourage drinking.

JCF large double and oval 100-200GL ‘fast-fill’ troughs fill at 75L per minute. Find out more by calling your local Carr’s Billington branch: Store Locator

Bedded areas

Cows need ample space to lie, so aim for 10 to 12m2 of bedded area per cow. It’s also good practice to have extra housing space available to prevent overstocking which can result in competition and stress.

Bedding should be clean and dry, ideally 60cm deep to improve comfort which will encourage rumination. This is important to maintain feed intakes and efficient digestion.

Cubicles should be 1.35m wide and 2m long with 75cm headspace for lunging. If cows are lying half in and half out of cubicles more space may be required.

Ventilation and lighting

Ventilate housing by opening roof ridges and side inlets to a minimum of 20 to 30cm wide to ensure adequate airflow.

Stale, humid air will be present where airflow is poor in the shed so cows may refuse to lie down or eat in these areas. Bacterial growth is also more likely, which will increase the risk of respiratory disease.

Carefully group cows and minimise changes

Cows prefer consistency and routine so achieving a ‘stress free calving line’ is a critical component of maximising the health and productivity of dairy cows.

Group ‘far off’, ‘close up’ and ‘freshly calved’ cows in pens adjacent to one another in the same building. This will minimise the stress of moving cows from group to group through this critical transitional period.

Ideally, cows should also be moved in groups, at least a pair at a time – not individually. Adopt a ‘just in time move’ approach as moving cows into a different pen just at the point of calving is less stressful than moving them within ten to two days.

If space allows, a relatively new idea is to provide a “cuddle box” for the calf outside the calving pen so the cow can see and lick the calf but not defecate on it. This will help to reduce post-calving stress.

Speak to your local specialist for advice on keeping your transition cows as comfortable as possible.

You can also read more about dry cows nutrition to optimise health and milk yield here: Time4Transitioning: A Guide On Dry Cow Nutrition and here: Time 4 Transitioning | Time 4 Winter

Carr’s Billington joins forces with industry to help bust GHG myths 

We have joined forced with the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) and other industry stakeholders to help highlight accurate facts about greenhouse gas emissions from the sector ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow at the end of October (31st Oct).

The aim is to help inform everyone of the actual levels of greenhouse gas contributions coming from the dairy industry and dispel many of the current myths. Therefore, the sector asks individuals, key industry stakeholders, businesses, and organisations to promote five key facts internally and to the broader public before, during, and after COP26.

It is anticipated UK agriculture will come under the spotlight at COP26, which is why it is important to shout about the good work the dairy industry is doing to reduce emissions from what is already quite a low level.

“If everyone can share just one fact on social media, in their company newsletter, to a friend or in a conversation, for example, then that is at least one extra person that is better informed about emissions from the dairy industry.”

Jim McRobert, Area Sales and Technical Manager

The facts being highlighted include:

  1. UK Dairy farming is responsible for less than 3% of the UK’s total emissions.
  2. 46% – Almost half of the emissions coming from the dairy cow is from their digestion- a perfectly natural process of ruminants.
  3. It takes 8 litres of tap water to produce 1 litre of milk or 158 litres of tap water to produce 1 litre of almond drink.
  4. The carbon footprint of a litre of British milk is around 1.25kg CO2e compared to a global average of 2.9kg CO2e per litre.
  5. UK dairy cows are some of the most climate friendly in the world. There are 278 million dairy cows worldwide. If they were all as efficient as UK dairy cows, we WOULD ONLY NEED AROUND 76 MILLION of them to produce the same amount of milk.

The RABDF has produced draft social media posts, newsletter snippets, visuals and posters that are free to copy and paste from their website at

RABDF Managing Director Matt Knight said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for people to spread the good work of the dairy industry and reinforce the fact dairy products aren’t only good for human health, they are also good for the planet too.”

For your free visuals, social media posts and more on greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy sector, please visit

Boost calf daily live weight gain this summer with ad-lib feeding

Dairy farmers are being advised to consider ad-lib feeding this summer to boost dairy heifer calf growth and lifetime yield potential.

According to Clare Lawson, our Calf and Youngstock Product Manager, up to 1kg of daily live weight gain (DLWG) can be achieved using this type of feeding system when birth weights are at least 35kg.

“When calves feed naturally on the cow, they typically drink between 11 and 15 litres per day. Ad-lib mimics this instinct and can often lead to better growth rates than in a restrictive system.

“There’s also the added benefit that calves are fully weaned off milk on average four days earlier on ad-lib systems meaning feeding costs can be reduced.”

There is evidence to suggest that if calves achieve an extra 0.2kg DLWG in the first eight weeks, it can result in 500 extra kilos of milk in their first lactation.

“Therefore, if you are able to go above this and achieve up to 1kg of DLWG, this could pay dividends once these cows reach the milking herd,” she adds.

To optimise performance with the system, Clare recommends feeding a top-quality milk replacement powder.

The advice is bolstered by the latest LifeStart Science research that’s revealed calves provided with a consistent, high plane of nutrition via ad-lib milk feeding, experience benefits post weaning above those animals of the same genetic merit that are fed a lower plane of nutrition.

“Elevating the plane of nutrition pre-weaning not only leads to higher calf growth rates and improved heifer performance but can also result in long-term positive impacts on fertility, survivability and lactation performance providing a clear return on investment,” says Clare.

Farmers must also take steps to smooth the transition from milk to non-liquid diets to avoid a post-weaning growth check, which applies to both ad-lib systems and restrictive systems.

“Calves will need to be eating 1.5 to 2kg of starter feeds before milk is fully taken away. When feeding ad-lib, calves can be slowly weaned over ten days by gradually taking milk away for a certain period of the day, with the total milk feeding period becoming shorter over a set period of time.

It is advised that farmers contact their nutritionist if target calf growth rates are not being achieved, in order to review all aspects of calf management.

“Every farm is very different in its system, so we focus on working closely with the farmer and their vet when offering advice.

“As a team, we can maximise the pool of ideas and help identify the best solutions to try, bringing in suggestions from our knowledge and experience of other similar farms and from trial work,” concludes Clare.

Case study example

According to Rory Christie, who runs a spring block calving herd of 1,100 cross-bred milkers in South West Scotland, moving from a restrictive system to ad-lib feeding has resulted in significant improvements in daily live weight gain (DLWG) in the first eight weeks of life.

The higher DLWG promoted by the ad-lib system means Mr Christie is able to gradually wean calves and have them fully off milk by 52 days, compared with their previous average weaning age of 56 days. Individual calves regularly achieve 0.97kg DLWG based on 35kg birth weight.

“Those early weeks of life are the most important and, if we get it right, heifer calves have an increased chance of being more successful cows. For us, it’s about meeting lifetime weight and yield targets and calf live weight gain,” explains Mr Christie.

Discussions with his nutritional specialist at Carr’s Billington prompted Mr Christie to think further about overall calf health, development and their lifetime potential.

“We moved to a high-spec milk powder which has worked well so far in the ad-lib system. We have reared calves successfully on whole milk in the past but switching to a powder is one of a number of measures we’ve taken to help protect against Johne’s in the herd. Powder can also provide more consistent milk quality, ease of management and, in theory, it can be cheaper, depending on your system and how you decide to account for that.

“There is no question that you have to pick a high-quality milk powder to get results; it should be one that suits you and you feel is value for money.”

“The powder we use, Vitality, part of Carr’s Billington’s energized calf milk range, is balanced in a way that calves can take a lot of milk and not suffer from any nutritional scour, so we’ve been able to increase intakes and growth significantly while maintaining the same good health as before,” Mr Christie adds.

Fertiliser spreader checks should be prioritised to reap financial rewards

Dairy farmers are being advised to consider ad-lib feeding this summer to boost dairy heifer calf growth and lifetime yield potential.

Farmers not checking fertiliser spreaders pre-application could be losing up to £100 per hectare.

This is the stark warning from Dale Shaw, our Machinery Sales Manager at Carr’s Billington.

“With input prices on the rise across the board farmers need to be considering how they can make small improvements on-farm to reduce the impact of volatile prices we are all currently seeing.

“Fertiliser prices are only going one way at the moment, but this is where you can reap the rewards if attention to detail is made a priority. Efficient fertiliser use and making the most of home-grown forage could go a long way this year,” he says.

As producers plan second cut silage, Dale suggests that in addition to considering when to spread fertiliser and the best product to use, producers should take the time to check over machinery before getting back out in the field.

“As with all machinery there will be various components that are susceptible to wear. Make sure you are confident that the agitator is working effectively and capable of ‘shaking’ the fertiliser down through the hopper.

“More often than not, the shutters on fertiliser spreaders are now electric. This can mean they are prone to issues, so test these to ensure they are opening and closing correctly to support flow rates.

“Likewise check over the discs and vanes for any signs of wear and replace these if necessary. Although investing in replacement parts can be costly, the cost of over or under spreading could be even more considerable in terms of the yield gained,” he explains.

Dale adds that once these checks have been done, calibrating the spreader to the product choice is important. “Don’t assume that all fertilisers have the same application settings as this is not the case. Different fertilisers will flow at different rates out of the machine. Check the fertiliser bags for the right information.

“Once you have set-up the spreader, consider doing a quick check in the yard. Remove one of the discs from the machine and replace with an adaptor. Place a bucket underneath the spreader and start the engine to simulate field conditions. Run it for 30 seconds collecting the fertiliser in the bucket.

“Weigh the fertiliser that has been collected and calculate how many kilograms should be coming from the spreader per minute. This should correlate with the fertiliser application settings and if there are differences you may have to make adjustments to the regulator to compensate. Modern machinery will be able to do much of this for you, however there is no harm in taking the time to double check.

“Ultimately you want your machinery to be applying product as accurately as possible to maximise yields – whether that’s grass yields, daily live weight gain or milk yields. Without taking the time to check over your machinery and get it set up properly, how do you know if applications rates are right, grass is getting the right nutrition and your money isn’t, quite literally, being flushed down the drain?”

Preparation key to successful grass growth this spring

With grass reseeding costing anywhere between £370 – £500/ha, it is important preparatory steps are taken now to realise the benefit of the investment this spring.

Alex Law, our Grassland and Forage crop Product Manager at Carr’s Billington, advises that prioritising what leys to reseed, in what order is key.
“This comes down to the results of a soil sampling report and having a clear understanding of how a new ley will be beneficial,” he says.

Soil sampling

“A soil sample report will determine the suitability of the area you want to reseed. For optimal growing conditions you ideally want a soil pH between 6-6.5, and phosphorus and potassium levels at an index of two to ensure nutrients are readily available for root growth.

“Although grass will germinate if soil conditions aren’t favourable, you should aim to focus on areas that have shown the most conducive results. This will ensure you have the best chance of growing healthy, highly productive swards and will help to reduce extra establishment costs,” explains Alex.
He also notes that areas with less favourable soil conditions can be repaired and reseeded at a later date.

Establish your goal

Alex adds that reseeding should be modelled to individual farm requirements including the selection of grass varieties.
“Only a proportion of farm may need to be reseeded to reach a particular productivity target, whether it be for grazing livestock or silage. As a general guideline, it’s advised a minimum of 10% is reseeded per year to sustain grass quality.

“However, this percentage will depend on many factors such as topography and your farm system,” he says.
He notes that considering other factors such as height above sea level, average rainfall and how long you want a field to be in grass for will also have an impact on how reseeding should be approached, and which grass varieties would be most appropriate.

“A successful reseed will pay back faster so it is very much worth putting initial preparation time into getting the results you are aiming for,” concludes Alex.
For copies of Carr’s Billington Grass and Forage Manual or advice on reseeding contact your local branch or farm-based consultant.

Bank Holiday opening times

Our store opening times for the Early May Bank Holiday 2021 are as follows:


Saturday 1st May


Monday 3rd May

Annan 08:00am – 12:00pm Closed 08:00am – 05:00pm
Appleby 08:00am – 12:00pm Closed Closed
Ayr 09:00am-05:30pm Closed 09:00am-05:30pm
Bakewell 09:00am – 12:00pm Closed Closed
Balloch 09:00am-12.30 Closed 09:00am-05:00pm
Barnard Castle 08:00am – 12:00pm Closed Closed
Brecon 08:00am – 12:00pm Closed Closed
Brock 08:30am – 12.30pm Closed Closed
Carlisle 08:30am – 12.30pm Closed 08:30am – 12.30pm
Cockermouth 08:00am – 12:00pm Closed Closed
Gisburn 09:00am – 12.30pm Closed Closed
Hawes 09:00am – 12:00pm Closed Closed
Hexham 08:00am – 12:00pm Closed Closed
Jedburgh 08:15am-12:00pm Closed 08:15am-05:00pm
Kendal 08:30am – 12:00pm Closed Closed
Leek 09:00am – 12:00pm Closed Closed
Longtown Closed Closed Closed
Milnathort 08:00am-12:00pm Closed 08:00am-05:00pm
Morpeth 09:00am-12:00pm Closed Closed
Oban Closed Closed 09:00am-05:00pm
Penicuik 8.30-12:00pm Closed 8.30-05:00pm
Penrith 08:00am – 12:00pm Closed Closed
Rothbury 8.30-12:00pm Closed Closed
Skipton 09:00am – 12:00pm PM Closed 09:00am-04:00pm
Spennymoor 09:00am-12 Noon Closed Closed
Stirling 8.30-12:00pm Closed 8.30-05:00pm
Wooler 08:00am-12:00pm Closed Closed
Wigton 09:00am – 12:00pm Closed Closed

Easter opening times

Our store opening times for the Easter Bank Holiday 2021 are as follows:


Fri 2 April

Good Friday

Sat 3 April

Sun 4 April

Mon 5 April

Easter Monday

Oban 9am-5pm Closed Closed 9am-5pm
Balloch 8am -5pm 8am – 12.30pm Closed 8am -5pm
Ayr 9am-5.30pm 9am – 5.30pm Closed 9am-5.30pm
Stirling 8.30am – 5pm 8.30am – 12pm Closed Closed
Milnathort 8am – 5pm 8am – 12pm Closed 8am – 5pm
Penicuik 8.30am – 5pm 8:30am – 12pm Closed 8.30am – 5pm
Jedburgh 8.15am – 5pm 8.15am – 12pm Closed 8.15am – 5pm
Wooler 8am – 5pm 8am – 12pm Closed Closed
Rothbury Closed 8.30am – 12pm Closed Closed
Morpeth- Retail Closed 8.30am – 12pm Closed Closed
Morpeth – Machinery Closed 8am – 12pm Closed Closed
Bakewell Closed 9am – 12pm Closed Closed
Leek Closed 9am – 12pm Closed Closed
Gisburn Closed 9am – 12.30pm Closed Closed
Skipton Closed 9am – 12pm Closed 9am – 4pm
Hawes Closed 9am – 12pm Closed Closed
Brock Closed 8.30am -12.30pm Closed Closed
Annan 8am – 5pm 8am – 12pm Closed 8am – 5pm
Appleby Closed 8am – 12pm Closed Closed
Barnard Castle Closed 8am – 12pm Closed Closed
Carlisle Closed 8.30am-12pm Closed 8.30am – 1pm
Cockermouth Closed 8am – 12pm Closed Closed
Hexham Closed 8am – 12pm Closed Closed
Kendal Closed 8.30am – 12pm Closed Closed
Penrith Closed 8am – 12pm Closed Closed
Wigton Closed 9am – 12pm Closed Closed
Brecon Closed 8am – 12pm Closed Closed

Investing in our calf and youngstock expertise

We are proud to announce that 21 members of our team have completed our Calf Academy programme.

The year-long course ended this month and was specifically designed to improve knowledge and expertise in calf rearing and youngstock health. Including modules in nutrition and colostrum management, environmental control measures, and disease prevention.

The training course was co-designed and led by Julia Wadeson, calf and youngstock specialist, and Clare Lawson, calf and youngstock product manager. They both delivered it digitally through weekly online sessions, featuring external industry experts.

“We’re proud to have seen our first group graduating from the course,” says Julia. “And it’s brilliant that many of them are already engaging in conversations with customers about youngstock rearing.

“This was an extremely challenging programme which required a significant time commitment and participants were required to pass an exam at the end of each module. Our graduates are now better equipped to advise on giving calves the best possible start in life and how to optimise growth to reach an age of first calving of 24 months. “It was an inclusive programme, accessible to those working in-store and on-farm,” she adds.

Peter Cartmail, one of our area sales manager has been really impressed with the impact the course has had, noting that “the entire course from start to finish covered all the relevant points, some much more technical than others, but combined gave a rounded understanding of what’s required to successfully rear calves”.

Following the success of this year’s programme, we are now planning to run the course annually for our staff, alongside top-up modules for those already qualified.