The first of the lambs have arrived, its a great time of year when you can visibly see all of your well thought out plans come together.

February has always been the month of the first new arrivals at Shandford, with our pure ewes brought in to lamb as is the commercial flock, as the weather can be unpredictable and rather taxing for newborns.

The pure ewes have received no supplementary cake, instead being fed on good quality silage which is high in protein (see attached analysis). As previously mentioned, the ewes have received their boluses with only the native bred Suffolks being supplemented additionally with copper.

All the lambs so far this year are looking strong and keen to suckle, which is half the battle in the early days after birth. Bottle feeding or helping suckle from the mother can take a lot of perseverance and can interfere with their natural instincts if required for a considerable length of time.

We record all birth weights and performance after birth to allow us to select future breeding stock. After lambing the ewes are penned individually to encourage a strong maternal bond and allow the lamb to suckle in peace. They are then placed in a larger indoor pen for a couple of days where we can monitor both mother and lamb easily, to ensure they are strong and independent enough before heading out to grass.

We continue to monitor their progress out in the field too, quickly recognising those with the growth, muscle and shape we wish to see replicated within our future breeding. Those not showing the greatest promise are fattened and sold through Forfar Market as soon as possible.

I have previously spoken about our decision to dose our sheep for liver fluke to try to prevent this from becoming a significant problem. A sample was taken from the ewes and came back positive, this has reinforced our belief that this course of action is the correct one and that hopefully by dosing them for this disease,when a follow up sample is taken, it will show that the treatment has worked. However if the sample comes back similar to that of the positive one, we may have to consider different treatment options as our flock may be showing some resistance. It is very much trial and error as we try to combat this.

The commercial ewes are now well into strip grazing the turnips. The wires are moved daily allowing them access to fresh growth and silage rings set up all of the time to ensure they have access when required day and night.

The very last of our previous crop of lambs were sold last week through Forfar Auction Mart at an average of just over £2 per kg, having been finished on Maxamon barley which saw them have a good weight and shape for the buyers.

Cows that have tested positive for Johnes are isolated for calving and will be kept separate throughout their time rearing their calves, until they are finished and put away fat. Last year was our first year of testing which has allowed us to identify and monitor the Johnes positive calves from birth.

The differences can be plainly seen between those that are positive and those that ar not. Our non affected steers have an average daily weight gain of 1.45kg in comparison to only 0.93kg seen in our positive steers. This equates to 60kg per head a difference since weaning or £132 less in value.

In addition to this, when handling the calves, those positive for the disease seemed more aggressive and stressed which are traits that can also have very negative implications within a herd.

I feel it is important to continue to tackle this and work proactively to remove all Johnes positive animals from our herd. The initial figures are looking positive with the results from the latest tests showing 1/3 of the number of positive animals compared with last years numbers. This is a great improvement and one we hope to continue to replicate.

Sent from my iPad