Management of pregnant ewes to be discussed at next Monitor Farm meeting

Opportunities to improve scanning percentages and lamb survival rates will be among the topics of discussion at the next meeting of the Shetland Monitor Farm.

Farmers and crofters are being invited to the free meeting, which will include a focus on the management of pregnant ewes.

Host farmers, sisters Kirsty and Aimee Budge from Bigton Farm, are due to start lambing their 240 Shetland cross Cheviot ewes outside in May.

At the meeting the Budge sisters will explain how they manage their ewes in the run up to lambing, and their hopes for this year’s lambing.

The Budges are generally happy with their scanning results.

In 2016 the ewes scanned at 157 per cent, and this increased to 164 per cent this year.

However, the sisters, who have managed the farm since 2014 with support from their family, are keen to improve their current rearing percentage of 109 per cent.

“Bigton generally has a good scanning percentage but we lose a lot of lambs before weaning,” said Kirsty.

“So we are keen to hear from others in Shetland about how we can improve this, as clearly every lamb successfully reared makes an important contribution to our farm income.

“We would also like to learn why some of our ewes lose their lambs after scanning and hope that others who farm on Shetland will share their experiences so that all the flock-owners in Shetland can benefit and reduce losses in their own flocks.”

Both Kirsty and Aimee Budge are keen to ensure their pregnant ewes receive the right nutrition throughout pregnancy.

The influence of protein in the ewes’ diet before lambing will be discussed, as well as other nutritional requirements to produce strong lambs with good survival rates.

Graham Fraser, from SAC Consulting Lerwick, plans to demonstrate condition scoring techniques to ensure ewes are in the correct condition in the run-up to lambing.

He will be joined by Jim Tait of Shetland Vets, who will give an overview of how flock-owners can prevent and minimise problems at lambing and provide tips to help save hypothermic lambs.

Aimee said: “We are really looking forward to getting some thoughts on how we can boost the number of lambs born and successfully reared at Bigton. Hopefully information shared at this meeting will help us and others in the area looking to improve their flocks’ efficiency.”

The Shetland Monitor Farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. The aim of the programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

Bigton farm will be hosting regular meetings over the next three years as the Shetland Monitor Farm, which will focus on technical and financial challenges that their business, and many other local farmers and crofters, face.

The meeting is due to begin at 11am at the Bigton Hall on 1st April. Places can be booked through SAC Consulting in Lerwick.


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