Five focus farmers have been selected for a new “Live Lambs” project, facilitated by Scotland’s Rural College and aimed at improving lamb survival. It brings together sheep farmers, advisers, researchers, and members of the supply chain into a group that will tackle the causes of lamb loss, monitor on-farm performance and introduce improvements aimed at raising lamb survival by 5%.
The three-year project, funded from the SRDP budget through the Scottish Government’s Knowledge Transfer Innovation Fund (KTIF), will provide information for wider discussion and debate by members of the SAC Consulting Sheep Group and other invited farmers. Information on any new practices they adopt which improve their performance will be open to other farmers in Scotland.
SAC Consulting’s Kirsten Williams, who will be leading delivery of the project, says: “Through working with the focus farms, we can introduce tweaks in production using modern research findings and innovative tools, this will have a lasting benefit on the amount of live lambs reared and therefore profit. The group will be encouraged to cooperate and share ideas, key messages and findings from the group will be publicised to ensure other sheep farmers are aware of the tools to increase lamb survival.”
Among the Live Lambs Focus Farmers are Duncan McEwan, Arnprior near Stirlingand Andrew Baillie of Carstairs Mains, Carstairs, both previously QMS Monitor Farmers. They are joined by Aaron Byrnes, originally from Australia but now farming near New Deer in Aberdeenshire; Donald Barrie, Farms Manager at the James Hutton Institute hill farm at Glensaugh and Lothians Farm Manager Peter Eccles from Saughland Farm, Pathhead.
Their activity will be boosted by additional information collected from SRUC’s Kirkton and Auchtertyre Farms near Crianlarich and through the involvement of Mark Gray who is involved in a separately funded project on his farm near Durham.
The network has been established to provide a wide variation of sheep farming systems, from location, flock size and terrain, with hill and lowground units, indoor and outdoor lambing, set stocking and rotational grazing and a broad mix of breeds ranging from Shetland Cross and Blackface to Romneys and Scotch Mules.
The Focus farmers will undertake detailed monitoring of flock performance to help identify areas for improvement and measure the effectiveness of advice from the group. They will also gain skills in diagnosing some of the common causes of lamb death.
Two key areas focused on will be maintaining ewes in the optimum condition in the build up to tupping and basing decisions on assessments made at key times. The farmers will be aided by kit that helps them ensure they are condition scoring accurately and getting nutrition right.
The latter can be achieved by feeding the correct rate and type of concentrate high in DUP in the run up to lambing to boost lamb vigour and colostrum production. Flock health will be addressed through decisions on vaccination for enzootic abortion and toxoplasmosis led by MSD Animal Health in conjunction with farm vets.
The project will adopt a holistic approach to managing all of the factors impacting on lamb survival based on known best practice and the findings of a recent research review, and will involve members of the SRUC Animal Behaviour and Welfare Research Team.