Sheep scanners around the country have told the Irish Farmers Journal that litter sizes are up this year and barren rates down in many flocks.

Scanners have also noted that many flocks have moved their lambing dates forward by up to 14 days this year.

Peter Lawless is busy scanning ewes in Louth and the surrounding counties of Meath, Monaghan and Armagh. Lawless told the Irish Farmers Journal that good grass in the latter months of last year has helped litter sizes this season.

“Farms I’ve visited so far are showing results of 1.7, 1.8 and 1.9 lambs per ewe. Sheep are in really good condition at the minute. I scanned a hill flock near Blessington recently and I noticed their body condition is up roughly 15% on last year.

“Interest in sheep has rocketed with demand and prices encouraging a lot of farmers to improve their flocks. Barren rates in lowland and hill flocks are down. I was out on a farm this morning and out of 650 ewes, only 36 were barren, which is a fabulous result.”

Scanner scarcity

Laois sheep scanner Liam Dunne said that most of the lowland flocks he has visited are carrying between 1.8 and 2 lambs per ewe.

“Some flocks have been exceptional.

“One farm I was on recently had 2.3 lambs per ewe. Farmers are pulling their lambing date forward this year by as much as two weeks,” Dunne told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Liam Dunne scanning Ewes on a farm just outside Mountrath, Co Laois. \Philip Doyle

Sheep scanners around the country are in scarce supply, Dunne warns, with many taking time out as a result of being a COVID-19 close contact.

“I have been mad busy and the aim is to avoid any close contacts because 14 days’ isolation would be a total disaster right now. Everyone is minding themselves to avoid the virus. The cup of tea in the house after scanning is gone for this season anyway.”

Kerry hills

Stephen McCarthy is based in Caherciveen, Co Kerry and reports that lowland flocks in the county are in good condition with litter sizes of 1.8 lambs per ewe generally.

“I have also noticed a lot of ewes carrying quads this year which wouldn’t be the usual.

“Hill sheep are starting to feel the pinch, though, with high rainfall levels recently. This bad weather has taken its toll with litter sizes as low as 1.1 lambs per ewe in some places.”