Monday, January 13, 2014

A new season is dawning

The rams had a very successful time with the ewes and the majority were covered in the first two weeks with only one needing a repeat service. This means lambing is due to start here on the 3rd March.

Despite the awfully wet weather we have been having both the ewes and rams are in fine fettle. The fields are the wettest I have seen them and the bottom of our main paddocks have been flooded for some weeks now. We did have a surprising amount of grass running into winter but unfortunately it has quickly turned to mud with the lying water. Hay rations were dipped into earlier than would have been ideal but unfortunately everyone needed a top up. Luckily the ram's paddocks are higher up and haven't suffered from the same boggy conditions; they haven't had any extra rations yet.

This year we decided it would be advantageous to have the ewes scanned so we can separate them into groups carrying singles and those carrying twins. We used a delightful scanner, very sympathetic with the sheep and me! The results were good and all but one of our ewes is expecting. The barren ewe is no surprise as she had managed to tip herself up a few weeks before and really did hit the ground with a thud. A shame but we will give her another opportunity next season. As for this lambing she will be put to good use as a buddy for any ewes needing a companion if they need to be separated or to nanny the lambs when they arrive. So the scanning results revealed we are expecting 8 ewes to have twins and 8 ewes to have singles. Obviously we would prefer a greater number of twins but will always be delighted if we get healthy singles.

The ewes have now been separated from the rams who have stayed up at our rented ground a few minutes away from the main holding. The ewes and ewe lambs from 2013 are still currently in one large group. The group will be divided into 2 next weekend; ewes carrying singles & ewe lambs from 2013, the second group will consist of ewes carrying twins. The reason we do this is so we can feed the ewes who are carrying twins more in their last few weeks of pregnancy. The majority of foetal growth occurs in the last 4 weeks with a large increase in energy demands to allow this to happen. The growing foetus also reduces the amount of space available in the rumen of the ewe meaning there is less space for grass and hay; concentrated feeds must be added to their diets. I think this is the moment the Ryeland ewes live for; extra food!

All the ewes look to be in good condition at around a condition score of 3. I will have a hands on check when we pen them to separate. Sometimes their fleece can make them look a little more plump than they actually are. Ideally I would like them to be at a condition score of 3 for lambing; too fat and too thin a ewe can both cause problems and require intervention so we always try to get them as close to perfect weight as possible. Easier said than done with a couple who insist on looking increasingly chubby regardless of the lack of grass!

So forward onto lambing. The ewes will be vaccinated with Heptavac P in the next month and the lambing stables and pens will be organised. The first group of ewes will be brought in a week before lambing is due to start.... fingers crossed for a productive and successful lambing period

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