Investing in animal health and welfare is worth every penny when it not only boosts ewe and lamb performance but also farm profits for Isle of Iona sheep farmer, John MacInnes.

John MacInnes is the sixth generation to run Culbhuirg Farm with his wife Joanne and two sons Cameron and Jamie, where they run 350 breeding ewes and 30 Limousin cross suckler cows across 550 acres.

Living on Iona brings its challenges when it comes to logistics therefore simplicity is key, and focusing on animal health allows John to produce good-quality stock.

“We run 150 Blackface ewes that go to a Bluefaced Leicester tup, and breed our own replacements. We then have 200 Mules which go to the Suffolk tup, and all the lambs that aren’t kept for breeding are weaned a few days before they’re sold store at Stirling in August,” he explains.

“All store lambs are sold on one day, as we have to plan logistics carefully to co-ordinate two ferry connections from Iona to Mull then to Oban, and then onwards to Stirling.

“We keep some Mules as replacements and sell some locally, but we also purchase Blackface ewe lambs privately from Achnaba, North Connel every year.”

Farming on an island with a low stocking density, John says it's easier to keep a closed flock and minimise stock transfers, however it is still important to treat and quarantine any incoming stock.

“The Blackface ewe lambs receive a dose of Zolvix™ and then they’re quarantined for two weeks to prevent them from bringing in any additional health challenges.”

When it comes to managing blowfly strike, he added that it can be hard to know exactly when the problem is going to arise and how long it will last, as the weather conditions vary year on year.

He added that in the past he always used CLiK™ but recently trialled an alternative product which had a shorter acting period and different protection. This increased the number of treatments but provided an overall lower cost.

“However, we started to find the end of the season was problematic, with an increase in stock being struck. The batching of sheep across crofts meant it was time consuming to administer a second treatment,” he says.

“Despite being initially cheaper, we found the treatments with a shorter protection period were a false economy, as we had to administer multiple applications, and often more frequently than expected.

“We can’t afford to have ewes and lambs getting blowfly strike, as its detrimental to their welfare and performance and takes significant time to treat. In addition, our Mule fleeces go to Iona Wool, a collaborative endeavour between crofters and a local business to add value to the island produce, and every fleece is precious. So, we’ve gone back to investing in products that offer longer protection.”

After learning the hard way, John says he would now rather invest in an IGR treatment such as their previous product, that covers them for most of the season, provides 19 weeks protection and contains FleeceBind™ technology for full fleece protection.

“We’ve found the length of protection to be far more effective, it gives us peace of mind and saves us time and labour costs,” he says.

“Where products have run out previously and fly strike pressure was high, we saw the detrimental impact this can have on ewes and lambs – it not only leads to welfare issues, but results in reduced productivity, which was demonstrated in lower fertility and weight gain.”

Farm Facts

Farm acreage: 550 acres

Livestock: 350 breeding ewes and 30 Limousin cross suckler cows with all lambs sold through Caledonian Marts, Stirling

Health policy: Quarantine all incoming stock after a treatment with an orange wormer to remove any restistant worms left from previous treatment on other farms and use CLik Extra across all ewes and lambs to avoid blowfly strike