Improved ewe performance on the Isle of Mull
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.