27 March 1998

Implants meet need for tight lambing spell

Whether to sponge or use implants to manage heat cycles

was the topic at Cotswold Sheep Groups recent open

day at Winchcombe, Glos. Simon Wragg reports

NO SHEEP producer wants to suffer a prolonged lambing time. But choosing which method of controlling ewe heat cycles depends largely on workload at time of sponging or implanting.

So argues Alistair Bird, independent consultant to Cotswold Sheep Group which recently met at David and Roger Scudamores Sudeley Hill Farm, Winchcombe.

The father-and-son team had used sponges/PMS in the past to synchronise heat cycles. This provided a very tight lambing pattern in January for the early lamb trade. But it had its disadvantages, says Davids son, Roger.

"Sponging ewes, then taking sponges out 12 days later and injecting ewes with PMS was a bit of a fiddle when were tied up with arable work in August," he says.

The Scudamores are now using Regulin/Melatonin implants, requiring one injection for each ewe.

There are other factors that prompted the switch for the 1500-ewe flock, adds Mr Scudamore. Using sponges, 10-15% of ewes were barren when scanned, compared to just 4% with implants.

"More barren ewes pulls down the lambing percentage. With sponges the lamb crop was 167% with a lot more singles, whereas with implants its nearer 210%."

Mr Bird suggests the Scudamores experience isnt uncommon, although he suggests difference in both lambing performance and conception rates is in the hands of the shepherd. "Ewe and ram condition must be right."

With sponges, because ewe heats are synchronised, you need more rams – typically one ram to six or eight ewes and with implants, one ram to 30 ewes would be required, adds Mr Bird.

Conception rates vary according to breed type and time of tupping, but with both systems the aim must be over 80% conception, he suggests. Both require extra labour around lambing to cope with the tighter lambing pattern

"With the implant the majority lambed down in about a week but it took up to three weeks to finish," says Mr Scudamore. With sponges it can all be over in about 10 days.

Without accounting for having to handle ewes three times, sponges cost less than implants – typically £2 a ewe and £3.40 a ewe respectively. &#42

Regulin implants deliver earlier lambs, a tight lambing pattern, and require less labour than sponges, believes Roger Scudamore.

Regulin implants deliver earlier lambs, a tight lambing pattern, and require less labour than sponges, believes Roger Scudamore.