Sample Story - Feeding in the Frost

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Click to see full size sheep photo It's early in the morning at Lochdhu, and it's time to feed the sheep. The main part of the flock's diet over the winter is grass silage, but the female sheep (ewes) are pregnant and this wouldn't give them enough nutrients to feed them over their pregnancy on it's own. A concentrate, which is a mixture of things like soya, sugar beet pulp, maize, barley and some minerals to supply all the ewe's requirements, is brought in by a lorry and pneumatically blown into the big silo bin, in the corner of the farmyard. There is a special chute on it specially designed to fill the trailer on the four wheel bike which is called a snacker.

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  The bulk silo holds 5.5 Tonnes of sheep feeding concentrate. It has been specially formed into "rolls" about the size of a thumb. These are easy for the sheep to find and pick up when the snacker trailer drops them automatically on the ground. The snacker is pulled behind the farm bike and holds about 250Kg.

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Click to see full size sheep photo Jake the collie is the farm sheepdog and likes to go around the sheep every morning with Farmer Bob. He's got a special mat on the back of the bike which he sits on while Farmer Bob zooms about. Jake loves the wind in his face and looks over Farmer Bobs shoulder when they go across the fields.

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  It's important to get round the sheep early in the morning to make sure that they are all OK. The sheep can hear the bike coming along the hill from Lochdhu, and by the time the bike and the snacker get to the field gate, all the sheep in the field are waiting for their feed, and, like to make a lot of noise.

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Click to see full size sheep photo This particular morning there was a hard frost on the ground which is not unusual for this area, but the sheep are hardy, their thick fleeces keeping them warm.

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  As the bike drives along the field the snacker automatically drops concentrated feed in little piles of about 1Kg each. That's about the same size and weight as a bag of sugar. The ewes run around behind the snacker to find the concentrate.

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Click to see full size sheep photo You can just see the lumps of concentrate on the ground, (click on the picture to view full size). This is a really good way of feeding sheep at Lochdhu in the winter as the snacker can drop the concentrate on a fresh piece of ground every day. There is also very little waste and the ewes clean everything up in about 5 minutes.

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  There are about 140 ewes in this group feeding on the concentrate. the amount of concentrate they get each day depends on a number of factors. They only get concentrate feeding in the last 6 -7 weeks of their pregnancy. They are started off at about 100 grammes each per day and this is increased steadily until they are each getting about 1Kg.

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Click to see full size sheep photo In December all the ewes are scanned to determine the number of lambs they are carrying. The vet uses the same sort of Ultrasound device that Doctors use on pregnant women. Ewes carrying triplets, or in rare occasions quads, will be fed more than those carrying twins which is the normal number of lambs. Ewes with triplets maybe fed up to 1.5Kg of concentrate per day.

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  Ewes carrying twins will be fed a maximum of 1Kg per head per day. This year about 12% of all the ewes scanned are carrying single lambs. These ewes will only be fed Concentrate in the last 3 weeks of their pregnancy. This will be more than enough for their single lamb as any overfeeding could make the lamb too big for a comfortable and safe birth.

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Click to see full size sheep photo It is very important to get the feeding balance correct. Overfeeding will produce fat ewes with lambing problems and underfeeding will produce weak, small lambs with mothers that have no milk since all of the ewes available energy will go into producing a stronger lamb.

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  All the ewes have free access to silage (grass cut by Farmer Bob and stored over winter). The silage feeders are filled up with fresh silage every couple of days. After 3 days the silage starts to go off and the sheep will refuse to eat it (you thought you were a fussy eater!) and anything left will have to be thrown out.

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Click to see full size sheep photo There is no story for a few of the pictures but we decided to leave them in as the pictures are so good, click on the picture to enlarge it to full size.

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  All of the ewes that are not in lamb have already been sent to market. They are either unable to breed or too old. It does mean that there is more feed left for all the ones that are in lamb.

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Click to see full size sheep photo All the ewes will stay out in the open fields until one week before they are due to lamb, then they will be brought into the lambing shed to give birth.

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  Next month members will see the inside of the lambing shed and all that happens in it. Even the yukky bits!

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