Marking time as lambs continue to make progress
THE lambs have been growing steadily over the past month – I cannot believe it is already marking time.
Over the past few weeks we have gathered all our ewes and lambs from different flocks for marking. This has involved a number of different jobs, including weighing the lambs and ewes, vaccinating against a range of clostridial diseases, ear-notching (marking), double ear tagging and worming all of the lambs. There was a lot to fit in, but thankfully this is all done now.
I was curious as to how the lambs in our Auchtertyre flock had fared since we managed to tag some of them born in the hill park before they went to the open hill, as part of our attempt to get to the bottom of the ‘ blackloss’ here.
Out of all the 412 tagged last month, 39 died within 24 hours of birth in the park itself and only 29 haven’t come in yet, so we haven’t had too many losses so far, which is good.
We also had 67 untagged lambs from the remaining ewes that lambed out on the open hill. We’ll see how well they come in again when we gather for the milk clipping in mid July.
Every year, we also have an issue with ‘plochteach’ ( yellowses), where the skin on the lambs can become very sensitive to light and they develop severe sunburn-like symptoms. So far this year we have seen very few affected.
We have seen three cases in the Kirkton research flock, all of them Scottish blackface, and 11 in the Auchtertyre flock, all of which were also Scottish blackface, apart from one Swaledale cross lamb. The lambs affected were treated with a vitamin B complex injection and a steroid injection. They were then put into the shed with their mothers, to stop the sunlight making their symptoms worse.
Our cows are now with the shorthorn bull on the hill. We will wean the calves in September and weigh both the cows and calves to calculate each cow’s efficiency based on the weight of calf reared by the cow. The calves will then be sent to one of SRUC’s other farms at Oatridge, near Edinburgh for finishing.
As well as being busy with the livestock here, we have also had our share of visitors.
Colleagues in Edinburgh were involved in organising the 21st International Farm Management Association conference at the beginning of July, and they were keen for delegates to come to our research farm here as part of the site visits.
We hosted three groups of conference delegates, one on the Tuesday, one on the Thursday and a final group on the Saturday. More than 120 people came in total – a mixture of scientists, farmers and consultants.
We told them about our sheep genetics and systems research work, demonstrated our state- of-the-art handling facilities and how we use EID for sheep management, as well as the financial and labour benefits of using this technology.
We also told them about our grassland management and how we are using drones to map the distribution of weeds in our fields. We also talked about our cows and, finally, how we are involved in developing new sensors to be able to track livestock on the open hill.
These international visitors were impressed by the range of activities we have here regarding hill farming systems, and could see the many similarities with their own situations.
We also had two visitors from AgResearch in New Zealand who are developing a hill country strategy to help address the production challenge faced by sheep farmers out there. They had good discussions with a few of my colleagues and were impressed by the parallels between the issues we are seeking to address here and the issues hill sheep farmers are facing in New Zealand. We hope to work more with them in the future. Finally, we hosted a worm and fluke workshop, in collaboration with the Soil Association and the Moredun Institute. It was a very practical affair looking at effective ways of treating fluke and worms.
It covered diagnosis, control approaches, different treatments and pasture management. We showed how we used the EID-associated weigh- crate to help us implement the targeted selective treatment approach, where lambs are only wormed if they are not reaching their expected target weight.
The workshop also looked at how wader scrapes established to benefit wildlife might affect fluke management on the farm. More than 20 people participated and the feedback was very positive.
Once again, no rest for the wicked and another busy month.
SRUC staff and students have been busy marking lambs.