By Poppy Frater, Claire Morgan-Davies and Cathy Dwyer, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)

The SheepNet European partners have produced some excellent new factsheets that pull together the latest science and practises on several topics that influence lamb survival and performance. These are freely available in the SheepNet knowledge reservoir. Read on for summaries of the mineral nutrition and udder morphology factsheets.

The mineral nutrition factsheet ( nicely summarises the key minerals that influence sheep performance and the chart below illustrates how the different mineral deficiencies manifest themselves.

For example, iodine deficiency relates strongly to thyroid enlargement and moderately to reduced performance and appetite, infertility and abortions with possible links to reduced immune function.

Sodium deficiency is strongly associated with reduced appetite, skin or hair disease and eating non-food items. Although this is not intended to specifically pinpoint the causes of issues, this chart can be indicative and help identify further testing required.

The udder morphology factsheet ( draws upon the work from the dairy sheep world – selecting ewes based on good udder shape and teat placement. These characteristics can be objectively scored using measurements such as udder depth and teat angles, to select replacements.

Many of these traits are moderately heritable, therefore, selection will make progress. Similar to the dairy cow world, selection based on milk yield alone is disadvantageous to the shape of the udder.

Work has shown that udder shape and size is linked to susceptibility to mastitis, but also links to time taken for lambs to locate the teats and hence their performance and ewe longevity.

Commercial farmers selecting own replacements might score udders more simply, e.g. good, ok, bad, to determine which ewes to select replacements from and cull those that have bad udders to minimise the persistence of these traits in the flock.

Other new factsheets in the knowledge reservoir cover colostrum, ewe lamb management and late pregnancy nutrition, see here for the full library of resources:

SheepNet (Sharing Expertise and Experience towards sheep Productivity through NETworking) is a Thematic Network funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 727896).