One way of making sure we are doing all the right things is to scan our ewes. This tends to happen around 80 days into their 5 month gestation period (check out our ‘It’s tupping time’ post to see how we know rough due dates). At this stage the lambs are the perfect size to be picked up by the scanning equipment, which works in the same way as the ultrasound scanners used to see unborn human babies.
On the day of scanning, all the sheep are moved closer to the handling pens next to the Farm Park. They are walked through the race and are examined in turn, before being released back into the field. The scanner sits in a tent to the side of the race which makes seeing the screen much easier in the daylight. Warm water or gel is used to improve contact between the machine and the skin and the hand held probe is run over the ewe’s tummy whilst a picture appears on the screen.
The black and white image is, to the untrained eye, a mass of moving blobs and shadows. Our scanner Graham is very quick to pinpoint the lambs and the number is recorded in a tally for each breed. Coloured dots are sprayed onto each ewe to indicate the number of lambs they are carrying. This information is very important, particularly in the last 6 weeks of their gestation period, as the lambs are growing rapidly. This extra demand on the ewe means she will need a special diet. The ewes are brought into the Demonstration Barn around 4 weeks before they are due to give birth and separated according to the number of lambs they are carrying. This allows us to feed the right quantities of pellet food to ensure our multiple births aren’t too small and our single births aren’t too big.
Join us for our special half term Lambing Week event starting the 14th February.