2013-02-05 xml
Lambing is a very Precise Science

Lambing is a very precise science at the West Wales farm preparing to host NSA Welsh Sheep 2013 this Spring, with every lamb due in March already scanned, recorded, and counted. It has to be, because the young couple farming there represent a very modern approach to farming.

Sion and Claire Williams are both first generation farmers at their tenanted Beili Ficer Farm, Llansawel, near Llandeilo and have borrowed heavily to add to their start-up capital. They have chosen to rear the new breed of Aberfield sheep, under contract to Aberystwyth based Innovis, to maximise their returns.

Sion, Claire and Harri Williams

Sion, Claire and Harri Williams

The project involves Innovis having implanted 900 Aberfield embryos into 550 of the couples’ Mule and Texel x Mule commercial ewes. Sion and Claire who have a three year old son, Harri, will retain the ewe lambs to start their own Aberfield nucleus flock, while Innovis will be supplied with the ram lambs to sell at their annual ram sales.

The Aberfield is a new composite breed, developed by Innovis over the past five years to combine the maternal traits of the Blue Faced Leicester with the improved conformation of the Texel. These rams are then sold with the hallmark of EBVs and the figures that the modern sheep producer wants.

Sion Williams said:” It’s meant a lot of work, because implanting the embryos is just one part of the process. You have to sponge the ewes first and maintain their condition, with 70 ewes sponged every day for eight days and then each batch of 70 has the sponges removed 12 days later over a period of eight days.

“Our recipient ewes had to be in the same stage as their donors, almost to the hour. They each had to be sponged at the same time every day for eight days. What you try and achieve is to get the maximum ewes ready for the embryo and if she’s not exactly right she is rejected.”

Sion and Claire take pride in their attention to detail and it pays off. It’s unusual not to have any rejects and for two of the eight days of implanting there were no rejected ewes – something the veterinary technician had never seen despite experience in many parts of the world!

The lambs will be born over a period of 12 to 16 days beginning on March 12, half of the ewes are carrying twins and half have had single embryos implanted. It’s one part of the procedure that is less precise because the number of embryos available is only established on the morning the donor ewes are flushed.

Scanning has shown that the ewes have achieved a conception rate of 75%, and with an average lamb and a half each, have a projected lambing percentage of 150%. All is on target.

Claire says: “One of the main benefits is the security this contract brings. We know what we will get for our lambs and that’s what our bank manager wants to hear.”

The aim is to build up to a flock of 800 Aberfield ewes over a period of three years and to sell the ram lambs. Meanwhile their flock of Aberdale ewes, another breed developed by Innovis, is also performing well.

The scanning result for the Aberdale flock was over 200% out of the 451 Aberdales, and only two ewes were scanned empty which was pleasing as they were tupped on poorer ground . They’re conscious that the number of lambs sold, rather than the number of lambs scanned, is the percentage that counts.

The couple are looking forward to sharing their experiences with the crowds expected to arrive there for NSA Welsh Sheep on 21 May 2013.


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