Im­proved ewe per­for­mance on the Isle of Mull

The Oban Times - - Farming -

FARM­ING on the West­ern Isles of Scot­land will never be an easy task, so for Iain MacKay, from Tor­loisk farm on the Isle of Mull, en­sur­ing his 1,000 breed­ing ewes are get­ting the best nutri­tion and care is key to the end re­sult for the busi­ness.

With 8,000 acres of ten­anted hill land, Iain, along with part­ner Claire, have 1,000 breed­ing ewes com­pris­ing of mostly Che­viot, with around 300 Black­face. All ewes are put to Che­viot tups, with Iain try­ing to use as many home-bred tups pro­duced by the in-bye stud flock as he can. ‘I like to use home-bred tups on the hill ewes as I feel they are al­ready ac­cli­ma­tised to the weather and their per­for­mance does not drop,’ says Iain.

The cou­ple also have a herd of 50 High­land cat­tle, of which the best are pure-bred for re­place­ments with the re­main­ing cows be­ing crossed with the white bred shorthorn and Sim­men­tal bull.

Iain works closely with Har­bro Coun­try Stores, Cor­pach, man­ager, Ewan Cameron who, in Au­gust 2015 ad­vised Iain to put his ewes onto Har­bro’s En­er­gyze range.

‘ We de­cided to try the prod­uct firstly on the in-bye ewes, so we could mon­i­tor the in­take bet­ter and ewe per­for­mance in the run up to lamb­ing,’ says Iain.

Ewan added: ‘I ad­vised Iain to start feed­ing for­age booster to the in-bye ewes when he first got the buck­ets home at the end of Au­gust.

‘Us­ing En­er­gyze For­age Booster is im­por­tant dur­ing tup­ping, but more so prior to tup­ping. The boost the prod­uct gives ewes prior to tup­ping en­ables the pro­duc­tion, con­cep­tion and sur­vival of more em­bryos,’ he con­tin­ues.

It is not just a di­rect nu­tri­tional boost that for­age booster buck­ets pro­vide – they en­able the ru­men to get more from poorer qual­ity for­age avail­able to ewes and, via choline, pro­vide a means of switch­ing on genes for a life­long per­for­mance of off­spring. This is epi­ge­net­ics in prac­tice.

The in-bye ewes re­mained on the prod­uct un­til six weeks prior to lamb­ing, when they then change to En­er­gyze Vi­tal­ity.

All in-bye ewes are scanned and split into batches ac­cord­ing to how many lambs they are car­ry­ing. Any leaner ewes, along with twin car­ries, are then in­tro­duced to Har­bro’s Clover Pre­mium 18 rolls + Evo along­side En­er­gyze Vi­tal­ity.

‘Feed­ing com­pound is an ex­cel­lent way of stim­u­lat­ing ru­men ac­tiv­ity as a re­sult of the phys­i­cal form of the in­gre­di­ents used. Clover Pre­mium Ewe 18 con­tains ex­cel­lent sources of di­gestible fi­bre which helps stim­u­late ru­mi­na­tion, lead­ing to sta­ble ru­men pH, in­creased in­takes and im­proved per­for­mance,’ com­ments Ewan.

Evo, an ad­di­tive ex­clu­sive to Har­bro, is added to Pre­mium Ewe as it has been shown to en­hance feed in­takes and re­duce stress at lamb­ing.

In-bye lamb­ing com­mences around April 3, with Iain al­ready notic­ing some real ben­e­fits af­ter one year on the En­er­gyze range. ‘Our lamb­ing per­cent­age in­creased from around 112 per cent at wean­ing in 2015 to 132 per cent for 2016’s crop,’ com­ments Iain.

‘The con­di­tion of the in-bye ewes im­proved dras­ti­cally with them pro­duc­ing more milk than pre­vi­ous years. This has saved our labour time, with very few lambs lost, need­ing suck­led or bot­tled and ewes are fit enough to mother their off­spring with lambs ap­pear­ing more vig­or­ous at birth,’ he con­tin­ues.

Im­proved re­sults kept com­ing af­ter wean­ing at Tor­loisk. Iain’s 2016 over­all price for his in-bye wed­der lambs, sold at Cale­do­nian Marts, Oban, was £48 for an av­er­age weight of 27kg, up £12 from the pre­vi­ous year, while 30 of the best male in-bye lambs were kept en­tire for use on the hill ewes. ‘It was the same buyer we had buy our lambs, so we hope they will see im­proved fin­ish­ing re­sults from this year’s lambs and con­tinue to buy from us in the fu­ture,’ says Iain.

Af­ter the suc­cess of 2016’s lamb­ing, Iain has de­cided to con­tinue us­ing Har­bro’s En­er­gyze range and has started feed­ing the in-bye ewes as well as the hill ewes, with the aim to get the same im­proved per­for­mance fig­ures from the hill ewes in 2017.

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