Saturday, 20 January 2018

Looking ahead to lambing

Malcolm in position

Bringing the ewes in ready for scanning
There are a few significant days throughout the farming year but scanning the flock to find out how many lambs each ewe is expcting is definitely one of those days for us.  Planning their pregnancies begins way back in the previous summer when we need to consider our grazing plan to make sure the ewes are on good grazing.  The right nutrition influences the number of eggs they will release ready to be fertilised.  It is similar for the rams, they need careful management for optimum sperm and we need to ensure there is no lameness or anything else which could affect their performance.

The big day was last Monday, the forecast was appalling and it didn't change, it poured with rain all morning, the ewes were brilliant and despite not liking the mud they did well waiting their turn.  We had a great team, Malcolm who was head of scanning, Benn who came all the way from Suffolk who has been a shepherd for the day with us the past 4 years and Emma who regularly helps us.  Malcolm sits in a trailer in front of a screen and we make sure he has a constant supply of sheep to scan as they each run up into the trailer next to where he sits.  He runs an ultrasound scanner across their tummies and records how many lambs he can see from the screen.  Benn had the important job of marking them according to how many Malcolm recorded.  Triplets, blue dot, twins no dot, singles red dot and quadruplets (yes really) 2 blue dots.  The final result was 203% - 258 are expecting twins, 73 are expecting triplets, 4 are expecting quadruplets,54 singles and 6 were not in lamb.  We are going to be busy!

We are delighted but a little daunted.  We don't allow a ewe to raise 3 lambs unless under exceptional circumstances.  It is too much pressure for her milk supply and one lamb will always suffer as it is excluded by the stronger two from feeding from her two teats.  We try to adopt as many lambs as we can onto the ewes who are expecting singles and this can be very successful.  This year though the triplets far outnumber ewes who are having singles.  This means we need to have a good fostering system in place where the foster lambs will have access to powdered milk.  There are a few good systems we can look at where there is a large bucket with lots of teats so lots of lambs can feed at the same time.  We will keep you posted and take some photos of the what we choose once set up.

We are not far off calving starting.  We will bring the very pregnant cows over the road back closer to the farm so we can keep an eye on them.  The six heifers (first time mums) we will bring into the barn so we can assist them if we need to.

Our chickens which we hatched last summer are now laying eggs which is really exciting, so it does feel like spring is starting to break through.  Longer days too, hooray!

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Finch, Belle and Fly