Monday, 11 February 2019

A sheepy day

I’ve had a sheepy day. Two annual tasks were undertaken. The first was administering their annual Heptavac-P booster injection. This immunises sheep against soil borne pasteurellosis pneumonia and clostridial diseases. Carrying it out now means that protection can be passed on temporarily to the new lambs which should be on their way into the world from the middle of March. To make the job easier all the sheep were herded into my small barn, and as I’ve been feeding them some supplementary coarse feed they readily followed me in and the gate shut. 

Once the injections were done the two rams (the main man and his companion, a castrated ram, or wether) were sent back out to pasture. The reason for this was this year I decided to scan the ewes for pregnancy. This is quite important for big commercial flocks to help better manage lambing. Scanning the ewes will indicate which ones are pregnant, expecting singles, twins or triplets. They can be marked and grouped accordingly. This will then determine their feeding regime prior to lambing and also how many deliveries to expect from each individual ewe. This can be important particularly in anticipating which ewes will be expecting triplets. As sheep have only two teats ewes will often have difficulty feeding three offspring and alternative arrangements for the third lamb might be needed, such as separate pens and bottle feeding. As newborn lambs will need four feeds a day this is quite a demand for sheep farmers and arrangements need to be in place.

I don’t normally trouble to scan my small flock of Wiltshire Horns. However, this year I decided to do so because we brought in a new replacement ram and he didn’t seem to display the same level of ardour as our previous ram. In addition, being new to us, he was a little too tetchy to get close enough to apply raddle (coloured dye) to his chest which is the usual way of indicating whether a ram has tupped each ewe.

I was a little late arranging for the vet to come round to carry out the scanning which meant that the scan would not show up how many, if any, lambs were developing but would confirm whether each ewe is pregnant or not. That was good enough for me. 

As it turned out all eight ewes were indeed pregnant. This dispelled any doubts about the prowess of the ram. I suppose he just prefers to do it in the dark. Knowing that all the ewes are pregnant helps us to know what to expect and will help in the ewes' management in the lead up to lambing and hopefully contribute to the safe delivery of their offspring.