At the end of World War II, Germany sought revenge on the Dutch who had not helped their war effort, by blockading Holland. This meant food and fuel supplies were limited, resulting in restricted food intake, with calorie intakes dropping as low as 500 per day and poor living conditions across the country.

By the following spring, allied forces regained control and with it, diets and living conditions were quickly back to ‘normal’. However, the consequences of the famine lived on.

The consequences were longest lived in babies conceived during the famine. The Dutch kept meticulous records, meaning these babies were followed for the rest of their lives. If we consider a family where the first sibling was conceived before and another conceived during the famine, but were then raised exactly the same, the second sibling was generally more susceptible to ill health; obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and schizophrenia. Whereas parents and other siblings went on to have reasonably ‘normal’ lives.

This shows nutrition and stress at point of conception has an influence throughout the offspring’s entire life. This is the concept of ‘Epigenetics’ in practise.

The same is true when in sheep performance. By understanding epigenetics and therefore optimising management and nutrition before and throughout tupping, the best performance genes can be switched on to enhance lifetime performance of the subsequent lambs.

By combining science and innovation, Harbro has taken the concept of epigenetics and made it practical and easy to implement on every sheep farm and smallholding across the country. Feet and fertility mineral buckets are a simple way of supplementing the late summer and autumn grass to help boost scanning percentages, increase number of viable pregnancies and also to have a positive epigenetic effect, which means lambs are stronger at birth and perform better throughout their lives.

When supplemented with feet and fertility mineral buckets, coupled with good management, flock managers will reap the benefits of

 improved foot health

 less lame sheep

 better scanning percentage

 increased number of live lambs and lamb vigour

 improved lamb performance

Finally, don’t forget about the tups! Half the genetics come from the ewe and half from the tup. Semen production takes around seven weeks, so to maximise returns on investment, tups should also be offered feet and fertility buckets for at least seven weeks pre-tupping too.