Thursday 16 April 2015

Accidents waiting to happen

See what I mean?
We had the first lamb of the year two weeks ago. Now all but two of the ewes and their lambs are out soaking up the sun on the Spring grass. So far it has been a good lambing with a lot of twins and the number of twins determines the, "lambing percentage",  the single most important factor in the profitability of sheep farming. Management of the ewes and their lambs from the end of summer until the lambs are weaned is all aimed at maximising the number of lambs weaned from the total number of ewes mated.

A rising plane of nutrition before mating in October maximises the number of eggs shed and potentially fertilised. This is phase one.

After mating the number of fertilised eggs implanted in the uterus depends on continuing good nutrition through December and January.  Nutritional stress now means that some developing embryos will be reabsorbed.

Soaking up the sun
In February and March in the last two months of pregnancy the developing foetus is growing rapidly and the ewe ifs building milk secreting tissue. The feed bill reaches a peak.

During the lambing, in April, its a matter of keeping new born lambs alive; sometimes with assisted deliveries but again its mainly nutrition and hygiene, they must have colostrum and an increasing supply of milk.

With good management and luck we should have a lambing percentage of 150. On hill farms conditions are harsher and expectations lower, perhaps 100 - 110 per cent. In lowland Britain intensively managed flocks produce 180 - 190 lambing percentage.

That's not all! We also have to minimise disease, parasites, accidents ( lambs are accidents waiting to happen), the effects of bad weather and of course foxes. If you have not worked it out; the lamb above has got under the bottom wire, is isolated from its Mum and is very noisy,  hungry and unhappy.

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