Friday, 10 February 2012
Tonight we had the first of our sheep scanned. By the end of this month all of our sheep will have been through this procedure. We scan because it is useful to know which sheep are carrying twins. Each sheep stands in a special crate next to where the scanning equipment set up. The scanner is passed over the sheep's belly and immediately our scanning man can see on his screen if the sheep is carrying one, two or three lambs. If the sheep is having twins a blue mark is applied on the shoulder and if its triplets the mark is applied behind the head. Up to now, no triplets but lots of twins!
During lambing time if Chris comes across a sheep with a blue mark on its shoulder that only has one lamb then he knows to start investigating. The second lamb might not yet be born, it could be dead, it might be lost or another sheep may have mistakenly taken it as her own. When the later happens it is known as 'mis-mothering'. Swaledale sheep are marvellous mothers but occasionally get confused. The one having twins has had her first lamb and is so besotted with it that she doesn't realise she's having a second one! Another sheep is about to give birth and is so keen to have a baby that she thinks the twin lamb is hers and 'adopts it'.
All the shearlings (that is the name for a ewe having a lamb for the first time) lamb indoors in large lambing sheds. Mis-mothering is more common indoors as the sheep are more confined. When we see that a shearling, which marked for twins, is close to lambing we will put her into an individual pen so that she can keep her lambs close, feed and bond.
Older sheep rarely have problems but if there is cause for concern it is good to know if it is a single or twins that are due so that extra care, rations etc can be provided.