March 2018

The last week was a little brutal for everyone. We are still a few weeks off lambing, so like everyone else, hope that it will start to warm up before too long. A long cold spring means limited grass and an almost certain uptick in mastitis. Over the years mastitis post lambing seems to be closely, and not surprisingly correlated to early or late, or particularly wet and cold springs. I don’t normally need to feed our ewes post lambing as we normally have enough grass. This year I might be forced to. With the price of good ewes, not to mention the value of female lambs (to be sold as shearlings next year), supplementary feeding (haylage and even concentrates) might be an easy calculation to make. I hope I don’t need to, but is increasingly looking like being one of those years.


Scanning of about 310 ewes in January went well. A little down on last year at 189% vs 192%. I used 2 ram lambs with 45 ewes each and a slightly higher ratio of shearlings than last year so not disappointed. For interest both lambs added 3-5kgs to their weights over the 4 1/2 weeks. Both started at 45-47kgs each. Both lambs (5362 and 5497) had one barren each. Both will possibly be up for sale this summer, although I will probably keep one.


Once again the ewes were housed mid January, with fields rapidly starting to look like the 2nd Battle of the Somme. Both shepherd and sheep had had enough. Luckily we have a good supply of good haylage, although if the long-range forecasts are right we might need it all.


The female hoggets (280) have just returned from winter keep on my neighbours fields, and are looking really will. They were shorn in early September, fluked end October and again fluked in January. For the first time I will fluke again as soon as I get a time. Historically we have not had a fluke problem here but with climate change, and particularly the mild winters of the last few years, I am starting to see evidence in FEC counts. Last year was particularly mild and I lost 3 or 4 hoggets at the end of March. That had never happened before. With the cold weather it shouldn’t be a problem this year, but I am not taking chances. There are numerous reports from further north in the hills of multiple losses from fluke since December.


For the last couple of years I have noticed some of the larger flocks have been getting wise, and sourcing their requirements in early June to ensure that they get first pickings. Whether the current stronger hogg prices will influence demand this year and subsequently prices only time will tell. Planning for requirements early in the season for the best ewe or ram must however make sense.