WITH MOST UK flocks now scanned, reports of increased lamb numbers in most areas highlight the need for careful feeding.

Scanning operator Bill Johnston, of Market Harborough, Leics, says most lowland flocks have scanned at higher percentages than last year, with some expecting up to 25% more lambs.

“Ewes are carrying more lambs than last year. In most cases about 10-15% up, but several flocks have improved performance by more than 20%.

This is true of all breeds and crosses, although ewes tupped later in the season have pulled back percentages in many flocks, he adds. “These probably suffered with lower grass growth later in autumn.

“The problem facing shepherds now will be keeping all these lambs alive. Many farms often sell just as many lambs when they scan to lower percentages as when large numbers are predicted.

“When ewes scan at 200-205% there will be about twice as many triplets as singles and this is quite easy to manage. However, at 210% and above you may have three times as many triplets as singles,” he adds.

Independent sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings echoes those comments and reckons many flocks she works with have also seen lower percentages in later tupped ewes. “Most flocks are up on last year, but it is later season ewes which have caused problems.”

Further north, lamb numbers also look well up on last year, according to scanner Ian Mowat, of Dingwall, Ross-shire. “We”ve yet to start on hill sheep, but lowland flocks have all scanned well, with most about 10% up. This probably reflects the better summer last year and increased grass availability.

“The few hill sheep I have scanned so far have scanned at similar percentages to last year,” he adds. In North Yorks, producers Bill and Jonathan Metcalf have seen some ewes scan as high as 250%.

In south-west England, scanner Simon Marshall also reckons ewes are expecting more lambs with lowland flocks scanning at 190-200%, about 10% up on last year.

And percentages are up in Wales too, with David Evans of Rural Options reporting increased lamb numbers of about 10-15% in most flocks he works with. “The good news is that most ewes are in good condition coming into lambing.

“But that doesn’t mean they will be able to milk off their backs, so flockmasters shouldn’t be tempted to leave it too late to introduce concentrates. Ewes should be split and fed according to lamb numbers and body condition, with feeding starting about six weeks before lambing.”

On top of this, producers should also have forages analysed before feeding them or risk over or underfeeding concentrates. “It may only be a difference of 5kg a ewe over the season, but on 1000 ewes that”s 5t of feed. So, analysing forage is more than worthwhile,” he adds.

Ms Stubbings also reminds producers to ensure ewes receive sufficient vitamin E to help lambs thrive. “Most compounders are including suitable levels, but home-mixers should check inclusion rates in mineral mixes,” she suggests.

jonathan.long@rbi.co.uk

PLANNING AFTER SCANNING

Most flocks up

Analyse forages

Don’t delay feeding

Check vitamin E levels