2 April 1999

Health initiative is increasing returns

A SHEEP health scheme in the North Yorks Moors is increasing producer returns by improving physical performance and keeping vet costs down.

The scheme includes four visits a year from the local vet, said Thirsk Vet Investigation Centres David Hannam, who is overseeing the projects vet strategy.

"Traditionally vets are used as fire brigade treatment. But by cutting costs it is possible for producers to take advantage of the vets experience to review management practices during the year," he told delegates visiting Ian Sleight-holmes Low Farm, Crosscliffe, Scarborough, North Yorks.

That included disease prevention policy, mineral deficiency status and worming strategy.

"Because of cost, some farms have never had a vet on the farm until they joined the health scheme," said Mr Hannam.

Sharing vet costs over a number of farms means producers pay 20% of the costs, with the remaining 80% – up to £400 a producer – funded by MAFF and the National Parks Authority.

"Quality of lambs born and survivability has improved through better ewe nutrition. This has been achieved by tupping ewes slightly earlier and in better condition.

"Some farms have fed more in late pregnancy, but this depends where they are situated on the moor."

Mr Sleightholme, who has 240 April lambing Scotch Blackface ewes, joined the scheme last autumn and is pleased with progress so far. "We have an enclosed piece of moor, which makes management easier.

"But we had some metabolic blood tests done and found we are short of copper. We would not normally treat this because ewes should replenish it from heather on the moor, but ewes are in terrible condition this year because of the awful weather, which has given them no respite at all." &#42