Scanning could be more vital than ever for flocks this year, as early results are revealing a wide range of expected lamb crops across the country.
South-west England scanner Simon Marshall reckons most early lambing flocks are yielding crops an average of 10% lower than normal. “We had been expecting mid-season flocks to see a lift in lamb numbers, but even these have been back, with many struggling to reach 160%. Typically, these ewes would be averaging 175%, but last summer’s dry weather has definitely had a knock on ewe fertility.”
Independent sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings says results from many of the earlier scanned flocks she has seen results for are extremely variable. Some are recording good crops in earlier tupped ewes and then tailing off, while the opposite is true of other flocks. “But it is still early and many later flocks will bescanned in the next couple of weeks.”
Further up the west of England, early lambing ewes at Downton Estates in Ludlow have scanned at 190%, says head shepherd Nick Davies. “We had been prepared for a poor scanning, particularly as we were burnt up last summer. But, even with Texel rams running with the early lambers at 1:100, we have come out with a great percentage.
“And it is a fairly even split, too, with just 80 triplets and 160 singles out of 916 ewes in-lamb,” he adds. The rest of the 3200-ewe strong flock are due to be scanned at the end of January, and Mr Davies is hopeful of a similarly good percentage.
Meanwhile in the east of the country Michael Munford of Hadleigh, Suffolk, says ewes have scanned exceptionally well. His 1300-ewe flock of Scotch Mules are yielding just above 200%, and a little over 2% barren. “We were lucky last summer, we had enough rain to keep grass fresh, unlike many areas. Ewes are coming into lambing sheds in good condition, although we have more triplets than we would like, with 244 ewes carrying three and just 192 bearing singles.”
Northern Ireland farmer Alan Montgomery does not scan ewes, but he reckons they should have decent percentages this time round. “Most ewes look well and took the tup well, so we should be looking at a decent lambing.
“We’ve had few dry days since late summer last year, so anyone with later tupped ewes may well have some lower percentages. We will be pleased with 150% turned out,” he says.
Among those expecting plenty of lambs this season is Andrew Blenkiron, manager at Chillington Estates, Wolverhampton, whose ewes are averaging 216% in the main flock. Of the 1280 scanned earlier this week more than 300 are carrying triplets, while the shearlings on the farm have averaged 202%. Mr Blenkiron has also been looking to improve ram use, with just two New Zealand-type Suffolk tups running with the shearlings this year. “Overall, we have been running rams at 1:60 this season and the late autumn grass flush seems to have helped them maintain condition.”
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