Livestock

Scanning sheep

It has become increasing popular to have ewes scanned to see if they are in lamb or not and if they are, to see if they are carrying single or multiple lambs. This information allows the shepherd to feed the pregnant sheep appropriately for the number of lambs she is carrying and to take a decision on any that are not in-lamb, thus saving money on feed and improving ewe and lamb welfare.

Overfeeding ewes can result in birth difficulties especially in those carrying single lambs (as well as being a waste of money), while underfeeding, especially those carrying multiple lambs, can lead to potentially fatal metabolic disorders in the ewe and poor lamb survival rates.

There are many professional scanners out there and some are quite willing to scan small flocks if they are in the area. Scanners can also tell you how far advanced the pregnancy is, giving you some idea of when the ewe will lamb, if you haven’t used raddle on your tup and noted dates of activity.

Scanning isn’t 100% reliable as a predictor of lambs born, as ewes can lose lambs between scanning and lambing, and distinguishing twins from triplets can also be difficult, although single and multiple lambs are easier to see reliably.

Sheep scanSheep scan display.

Timing is an important factor in accuracy – ideally, you want to scan between 70 and 90 days of pregnancy and certainly not less than 55 days or more than 100 days. It’s also helpful to starve the ewes for a few hours before scanning so that the rumen is empty.

Our scanner, whom we’ve used since our first lambing in 2009, charges a flat fee plus so much per ewe, which seems fair to us. She’s always been 100% accurate on lamb numbers.  :-)

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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