Scanning results a key tool in gearing up for lambing

Sheep battle through the wintry conditions at Clonkeen, County Kerry. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan
Sheep battle through the wintry conditions at Clonkeen, County Kerry. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

Tom Staunton

A new year and the countdown to a new crop of lambs begins. Towards the end of December we scanned the flock. I am quite happy with the results of the scan from both the pedigree Bluefaced Leicester ewes and the Scotch Blackface mountain ewes.

The Bluefaced Leicester ewes scanned 2.25 lambs/ewe, which isn't uncommon for the breed. These will be some of the first ewes to lamb, with the ewes due to start at the end of February and into early March.

I'm looking forward to seeing some new breedlines coming into the flock from the AI used.

The Scotch Blackface ewes will begin to lamb then, with most due around the middle of March.

The Scotch ewes scanned over 1.6 lambs/ewe which I expected to be lower due to the large amount of hogget ewes in the flock.

I found over the years that the hogget ewes scanned lower than the adult ewes but that isn't the case this year.

The barren ewes are let out again with a Lanark ram lamb. Many of these are more than likely in lamb but are later and could not be detected at the time of scanning.

There were a few ewes that have scanned back to back barren. These will be sold to slaughter in the next few weeks.

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Using the scanning results is key in preparation for lambing. There is no point getting ewes scanned unless the information is used to improve flock performance and help plan for lambing.

At scanning the ewes were dosed for fluke and were passed through a footbath before entering the shed. They were then divided into singles, twins and triplets and also the earlier lambing and later lambing ewes were segregated using the raddle colour.

Ewes are currently housed on straw with ad lib silage and have access to feed buckets. In the next few weeks I will begin to introduce a concentrate ration to the ewes using basic straights (rolled barley, flaked maize, soya hulls and soya bean meal).

I have two cuts of silage with one cut wetter and less palatable than the other. Both bales when side by side look similar but the ewes will tell you quickly which one is the best.

They told me before I got the silage results. I will use the worst silage for the next few weeks and then use the best silage for the eight weeks out from lambing.

It is an area I will target this year to help cut down on feeding meal. I also got the mineral and trace element levels in silage analysed and the results were low in nearly all cases. Ewes will now get mineral and vitamin supplementation before lambing as a consequence.

Over the next month I will be preparing for lambing, hoping to get some urea out, vaccinating and dosing ewes.

Tom Staunton farms at Tourmakeady, Co Mayo.

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