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Ups and downs mark home flock’s season

Fortunately there were more ups than downs to our little flock’s lambing last spring. We lambed more triplets earlier than ever, reared two lambs for every ewe that went to the tup and weaned earlier than usual.

We sold surplus ewe lambs and wethers while there was still plenty of grass around at good prices, but for the first time I lost a ewe after a difficult lambing and one lamb managed to somehow hang itself by its back leg on a single-tape electric fence – the inept acrobat has since recovered thanks to veterinary intervention but it was touch and go.

What has been pleasing is that local lifestylers bought lambs to increase their flocks, which bucks the national trend for falling sheep numbers. We were more generous with the NRM Triplet Nuts post-lambing than usual because the grass was slow to get away. We creep-fed the lambs Lamb Performance Pellets after weaning when they joined the orphans, which really seemed to support growth in the difficult transition to an all-grass diet.

A good mating is the foundation of next season’s success. Last January we put the tup in the little paddock adjoining the ewes in the hope that even the sight of his masculine form would encourage early cycling. We then let him loose on 6th February to try to bring lambing forward into late June. The first lambs did not appear until 9th July and lambing went on for nearly 6 weeks until 19th August, which is quite tiring on our Head Shepherd.

We always give our sheep access to LittleLix salt blocks and the ewes were in good condition. Flushing or putting ewes on a rising plane of nutrition is less effective at body condition score 3.5 or above so we didn’t feed NRM Pre-Tup Nuts. If we had, it is unlikely we would have got many more triplets but I would like to think lambing would have been over faster. This year we are trying to stop the ewes getting too fat so there is some scope to flush them through mating.

NRM Pre-Tup Nuts are like sheep nuts on steroids, with double-strength trace mineral and vitamin levels to try to eliminate deficiencies in key essential minerals holding back fertility, additional protein in case summer grass protein levels are in decline and extra energy from the addition of rumen-protected fat, which is inert in the rumen but good for body condition gains.

Before the flock is joined by the tup there may be an opportunity to at least separate out and flush lighter ewes but once together they are all getting the same. Like its owner, our tup carries a bit too much weight so at times has to be kept on slim pickings but this year he might get some Pre-Tup Nuts in case his maintenance diet is affecting his fertility and contributing to the length of lambing.