For flocks lambing down in February and March into April, they will be dialling up sheep scanners across the country to get an idea of how well the breeding season went and what the lambing season will look like for them this spring.

Scanning is a very useful tool when it comes to planning ahead for the lambing season, in terms of dividing up single, twin and triplet bearing ewes, along with devising an appropriate feeding plan for these in-lamb ewes.

In order to get accurate results, it is best to limit a ewe’s feed intake 10 hours prior to scanning. This will enable the technician to accurately predict the number of lambs a ewe is carrying.

Ewes should be scanned between 80 and 90 days post-ram turnout in order to achieve accurate results.

Scanning at 80 days will ensure that the scanner can pick up all of the ewes that are in-lamb.

However, scanning ewes that are greater than 90 days in-lamb will make it more difficult for the scanner to identify how many lambs the ewe is carrying.

Moreover, scanning ewes less than 40 days in-lamb should be avoided, as pregnant ewes may be undetectable by the scanner and may be considered empty.

Importance of scanning

Identifying empty ewes will allow for them to be culled – rather than holding onto them and keeping valuable feed supplies from pregnant ewes. With the trade for cull ewes picking up where it left off in 2021, it’s a good time to be moving these ewes on.

Moreover, by scanning, you will know how many lambs each ewe is carrying. This will allow you to make important management decisions in terms of grouping ewes in the lambing shed and around ewe nutrition.

A ewe’s nutrition in late pregnancy underpins her milking performance and the growth rates of this ewe’s lamb(s) post lambing.

Having a rough idea when your ewes will lamb is also important for planning tasks in the run-up to lambing time.