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TheSheepSite Blog: Scanning and Planning

05 January 2016

Clare Smith reflects on flock improvement and planning grazing for different scenarios at the start of a new year on the Luscious Lamb farm.

Scanning for us usually falls on a holiday of some sort. One year it was Valentine’s Day, last year was New Year’s Day. This year, on the Monday after Christmas, Bob came to scan our sheep.

The lead up to Christmas for us had been trying to work out the driest pieces of ground we had for scanning on and then getting all the sheep from their various sites to the scanning sites. Thankfully we ended up on about two sites with an even split of about 200 on each site.

It’s our most nerve wracking day of the year, setting the scene for the year ahead. This is especially true since we started the farm share as the figures don’t just affect us anymore.

Our scanning percentage has improved year on year from 59 per cent in year one where we only had ewe lambs to put to the tup, to 167 per cent last year when half of the flock were gimmers we bought in which had not lambed before, to 187 per cent this year, and we are really pleased. That makes us due 100 more lambs than last year, we now just need to find the grazing to keep them on!

Fifty of our ewes are in lamb with triplets, I think we had just 12 last year. As our flock ages (we started off with ewe lambs) we have been expecting an increase in triplet numbers but I don’t think we expected the rise to be so dramatic! We are assuming that the mild weather and growing grass has had a part to play.

We are now hoping that we can get fostering right as 50 pet lambs is not where we want to end up! Last year we had about 30 in total and my memories of washing out blue buckets twice a day on the floor whilst pregnant still fills me full of dread.

We are busy now splitting the sheep into their scanned groups and trying to match the number we have of each type to the appropriate grazing and their nutritional needs, in addition to limiting the number of trailer moves for the ewes carrying multiples between now and lambing.

I think Rupert could start a new career in logistics if the sheep do not work out. We used to spend all our time outdoors working with the sheep but have learnt that time put aside for planning is invaluable, especially for a system like ours where our grass quality varies so dramatically from site to site as do the timings of grazing working around horses and our own availability of electric fencing.

We sit down about once a week and so a short term plan for the week ahead as well as a medium term plan around the next big milestone. Now scanning is out of the way, this is around ewe nutrition and moving sheep back to our share farm where we lamb.

For example, we will be lambing all 250 singles outdoors, in horse paddocks and on polo pitches. The pitches have great grass but we cannot graze them if it gets too wet and we can only supplement with blocks or molasses which we move every day, trough feeding and forage make too much mess.

The horse paddocks have horses in them and so the grass is limited but at least we can put hay feeders in. The paddocks are also much smaller than the pitches and so if we were lambing say 100 on one pitch and the weather turned wet, we would have a challenge or two trying to split those 100 down!

Luckily our sheep are used to being moved but we are now trying to plan ahead for every scenario and get the split of numbers right so there is no stress for us or the sheep at lambing when it comes to grazing.

We also have our wedding at the beginning of next month and so having the sheep on our most secure plots has also become part of the planning. Luckily we have made some friends along the way who will be able to keep an eye on the sheep while we take a few valuable days off before lambing!

Click here to find out more about the Luscious Lamb farm.

Luscious Lamb Blog

Luscious Lamb

Luscious Lamb started farming in 2012, buying their first 150 Lleyn ewe lambs and securing their first grazing licence. They now farm 400 Lleyn ewes in a share farming agreement with a local landowner and graze across 21 sites, from river meadow and common land, to pony paddocks and polo pitches.