Saturday 27 February 2010

pregnancy scanning - a management tool

As already mentioned pregnancy scanning is now getting well through. I skipped over it the last time, explaining what happened at the actual scanning, it's now time to explain to you why it is a useful management tool.

Hill ewes carry more single lambs than they do multiple births. They live out on the hill only coming in closer to home to be lambed. There are still some which remain out on the hill and are lambed out there.

Any twin lambs born to these ewes which are lambed out on the hill have to be walked in onto better ground to give the ewe a sporting chance of rearing them. Even those brought into the fields to be lambed need the twins walking off onto kinder pastures.

Once scanning came to the fore it soon became apparent that from an early stage you were aware which sheep were carrying more than one lamb. These could be brought off the hill much sooner than all the single bearing sheep and looked after. They can be trough fed, ensuring the lambs are strong when they are born and the ewe will hopefully milk well and be able to rear them.

The result has been an increase in quality lambs available for sale in the back end, as they have had a good start in life, in fact they have had a good start prior to life due to their mothers being fed supplementary feeding which is high in energy and protein in the later weeks of their pregnancy.

Single bearing ewes are usually given some form of feeding prior to lambing but you don't want the lambs to get too big as this may cause lambing difficulties, therefore it is very useful to know which ewes need more feeding than others.
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Sheep can be fed at troughs, wooden or metal troughs which keep the sheep cake off the ground. These are put out in a line and tipped over once emptied to prevent them getting full of water/snow or whatever. Every feeding time they have to be turned and filled manually with cake out of a bag.
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This can be a precarious job, sheep get very keen for feed and those with horns know how to use them. It can be a matter of speed, getting the feed into the trough before a flock has you down on your backside or the bag tipped and all emptied out into the first trough, made more difficult when the conditions are clarty (muddy) and you struggle to make purchase with your feet as many bodies push in to have the first mouthful of feed. Bear in mind these ewes weigh anything from 50 - 70kgs and believe you me they can shove their weight about!

Snackers have come to the fore in later years. A contraption which is towed by a quad bike, it releases the feed out in heaps, with the operator safely out of harms way whilst driving the bike. Sheep can however have suicidal tendencies as they run around the front of the bike - care is needed. Although as with the troughs it often pays to have a dog at hand. A dog at your side whilst filling the troughs keeps the greedy so and so's at bay and the same if the dog trots along in front of the bike - just makes life a little bit easier!