Improving neonatal survival in sheep: science into practice

Project number:                     61110024

Lead contractor:                    Scottish Rural University College

Start and end date:               01 December 2015 – 28 February 2017

 

The Problem:

The UK sheep industry loses around 15% of lambs from scanning to rearing.  A 1% reduction in lamb losses for the English sheep industry equates to around 150,000 extra lambs.

This project would help to increase weaning weight of lambs per ha.

 

Aims and Objectives:

  1. To investigate the impact of monitoring body condition scoring on lamb losses
  2. To demonstrate the potential of good rationing advice on lamb losses
  3. To identify the benefits of vaccinations against enzootic abortion and toxoplasma
  4. To train producers to identify causes of death in neonatal losses
  5. To highlight the benefit of good record keeping

 

Approach:

John Vipond and Rhidian Jones from SRUC will work with Mark Grey, a sheep farmer in Co. Durham.

Mark puts 2,000 Lleyn ewes and 500 ewe lambs to ram, and replacements are home-bred.  It is an organic farm.  The ewes scan at 180%, but Mark wants it higher.  The ewes lamb indoors on a diet based on red clover silage and has been supplementing with soya for two years.  The main mob of ewes lamb from April 1st with 600 a fortnight earlier and 600 a fortnight later to maximise the use of the shed.  He already vaccinates for EAE and Toxoplasma.  He is on Stocktake and has good lambing records.

SRUC will visit Mark twice per year (pre-mating and pre-lambing) to assess records and outcomes, and provide advice.  The management changes that will be applied are:

  • body condition scoring  at mating, scanning, pre-lambing
  • monitoring productivity – i.e. lambs born and died
  • DUP supplementation and appropriate rationing
  • vaccination processes

An event will be held at Mark’s farm in Jan/Feb 2017 which will show how best practice has been applied and the innovative ideas used to maximise lamb survival and productivity.

 

Results:

This project has now merged into AHDB’s in-kind support of the EU project Sheep NET- http://sheepnet.network/ – as the results from this work has been taken into this network. Also Poppy Frater (SAC) presented some of the work at some of the Challenge Sheep events in Winter 2018. AHDB has been invited to attend the SheepNET workshop in November.

Poppy Frater will be presenting the outcomes at the SHAWG conference in November 2018.