Mark­ing time as lambs con­tinue to make progress

The Oban Times - - farming - By Ewen Camp­bell, SRUC Kirk­ton and Auchter­tyre re­search farms man­ager

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.

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