This week, the focus is on scanning results for mid- and late-season lambing flocks within the NI Sheep Programme, along with an update on ewe management in the run-up to lambing.

Twin- and triplet-bearing ewes have been housed for feeding purposes, with concentrates introduced for animals due to start lambing in mid-March.

Management for single-bearing ewes varies, with some animals still grazing. On other farms, singles are housed and on silage only, with concentrates set to be introduced closer to the onset of lambing.

Dermot McAleese – Loughguile, Co Antrim

Dermot runs a pure hill flock of Blackface ewes alongside a crossbred flock of Mule and Texel-cross-Mule ewes on upland ground.

The older Blackface ewes from the hill flock are being given a final year of breeding, moving from the hill to the upland flock. The crossbred ewes had 205 put to the ram and these animals were scanned at the start of the year. Scanning results showed a lambing percentage of 192%, up from 185% last year. Scanning breaks down to 49 ewes with singles, 123 sets of twins and 27 triplets. Six ewes scanned empty, which is a barren rate of 3%.

The hill flock had 509 Blackface ewes scanned. Again, results were up on last year, with the flock averaging 157%, up from 152% last year.

The hill scanning results breaks down to 105 singles, 178 twins and eight sets of triplets. There were 18 ewes scanned empty, just short of 6% barren. Twin- and triplet-bearing ewes in the upland flock are housed and getting fed silage through a diet feeder.

Concentrate feeding was introduced last week, albeit at a low level, with lambing due to start around 17 March. Single-bearing ewes are still at grass, as are hill ewes.

James McCay – Drumquin, Co Tyrone

Scanning was carried out on 13 January on James’ farm. There are 30 animals to be rescanned, as they were served late and the initial scanning was too early to give a positive pregnancy confirmation.

In total, there were 274 ewes scanned, with the results showing a lamb crop of 407 animals confirmed, which gives a lambing percentage of 148% across the entire flock.

Lambing percentage increases to 167% when the 30 animals to be rescanned are excluded. Around half of the flock is made up of Scottish Blackface ewes that run on hill ground, with the remainder being an upland flock of Texel-cross and older Blackface ewes.

Lambing is set to start in mid-March and lambing ewes with twins or triplets are now housed. Just 70 hill ewes and a few upland ewes with singles are still outside at grass.

Ewes are eating baled silage and concentrate was introduced last week at a rate of 200g/day for twin-bearing animals. The ration is a 20% protein nut.

Triplets are getting slightly more than twin-bearing ewes, while singles are on grass only. Concentrates will be introduced closer to lambing time.

Roy and Marilyn Mathers – Tempo, Co Fermanagh

All ewes and replacement ewe lambs are scanned and results are good. In total, there were 285 ewes and replacements scanned.

Mature ewes are a mix of Texel and Suffolk breeding. From 199 ewes bred, there are 375 lambs confirmed at scanning time, giving a lambing percentage of 188%.

This breaks down to 46 single-bearing ewes, 121 sets of twins and 29 sets of triplets, with just three ewes scanning empty.

Ewe lambs are homebred. There were 86 animals scanned, with 107 lambs confirmed, giving a scanning percentage of 124%.

Scanning results were pleasing, although the number of ewes with singles was higher than normal. Roy and Marilyn are putting this down to animals grazing on a land block with older pasture and soils potentially lacking in minerals. All ewes are housed, with lambing due to start in the second week of March.

Concentrates are being fed to all in-lamb ewes at this stage, along with silage. Feed rates vary depending on lamb numbers.

Trevor Nixon – Belnaleck, Co Fermanagh

Trevor’s ewes were scanned on Tuesday of this week and lambing starts in late March.

In total, there were 125 ewes scanned carrying 256 lambs, which gives a lambing percentage of 205%. This is down marginally on the 208% scanning percentage last spring.

The scanning results break down to 49 ewes with singles, 123 ewes carrying twins and 38 sets of triplets.

The high scanning numbers link back to Belclare breeding in mature ewes. As far as possible, Trevor will foster triplet lambs on to single-bearing ewes.

Ewes are still at grass, having recently returned from winter grazing. The plan is to leave twin and triplet-bearing ewes at grass for another two weeks before housing. Once housed, concentrates will be introduced at a low level and built up as lambing approaches.

Single-bearing ewes will be housed closer to mid-March, but will be supplemented outdoors as necessary. All ewes will be vaccinated against clostridial diseases one month prior to lambing.

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