Scanning 2015

Once Christmas day is over all eyes on the farm turn towards our scanning day, which is usually early January. Michael would normally take his rams away from the ewes at least 35 days before they are scanned to ensure accurate scanning results. The ewes have to be in lamb around 80 days to read the pregnancy result correctly, so this year the flock were scanned in the first week of January. I find it is usually a time of nervous but good humoured tension among farmers; they want a good result and are nervous of the outcome. But really they have done all they can and can do little about the result, whatever it may be.IMG_1692

The shed is set up in a fairly organised manner which ensures smooth, quick, efficient running of the whole operation. Firstly the ewes are run in batches into a holding pen at the top of the shed and from there they are run through a crush into a scanning crate. Sean Cooney has scanned the Keegan’s sheep for as long as Michael can remember and usually the neighbours and some friends drop by to help, it is a sort of social occasion under the guise of work! The scan literally takes a couple of seconds by running the scanner head under the ewes belly and reading the screen; the ewe is marked according to the result and released into the shed. They then get sorted into their respective batches depending on their result; twin, single or triplet pregnancies. This ensures they receive the correct amount of nutrition according to their pregnancy status.

Triplets

Triplets

After the scanning is over all the helpers, Michael and Sean pack into our little kitchen to gobble up whatever gigantic meal I have prepared for them. Which happened to be a roast chicken stuffed with lemons, with roast veg and mashed potato on the side… But I digress. Michael was reasonably pleased with the results this year, there were very few triplet or single lamb pregnancies and the result was 1.89 which means the majority of the ewes scanned with twins.

We run lambing courses which small flock owners and interested persons part-take in. They are quite popular but this year the lambing will be quite a long drawn out process so I hope everyone will get to see at least one lambing. The ewes are due to start lambing around the 8th of March and could go on for more than six weeks. One ram ran with 160 ewes and stayed with them for a longer period than usual. This was done for a couple of reasons: one; to get as many progeny as possible from one particular ram as he has very good bloodlines and also carries the ‘twin gene’. And two; This is the last year we can use him on a big batch of ewes as he is getting on in years and won’t be able for the workload next year.

IMG_1680I think the twin gene ram knows he’s special, he looks around himself in a lofty manner and sort of puffs out his chest. I guess having that many girlfriends would make a lads head swell!! Around 20 of his ewes will have to be rescanned as he wasn’t taken away from them until about 30 days prior to the scanning. Sean will be doing that shortly, he thought a lot of them were in lamb but couldn’t be certain. I was particularly interested to see how this ram got on seeing as he had so many lady friends, but I guess 140 in-lamb out of 160 is not bad anyway. Every female lamb born to him will carry the twin gene, he’s a very good ram and Michael wants him to sire as many as possible. Michael also has 15 hogget’s who have the twin gene, by a different sire, who ran with another ram and their scan result was 2.06, 14 have twins and 1 has triplets. Of the 2014 ewes lambs 40 carry the twin gene and will join the main flock this year. After the 2015 lambing Michael hopes to keep as many female lambs as possible carrying the twin gene to go into the 2016 flock. It remains to be seen how well the whole ‘twin gene’ story will pan out, but with this year’s scan results Michael’s flock steps positively into the future.

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