2013-05-08 xml
Schmallenberg Lamb Losses Reflected in CT Scanning Service

The impact of Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) in England has been reflected in the activities of SRUC’s CT sheep scanning service this year.

Lamb losses south of the border have meant the service is operating its first session of 2013 - for early pedigree lambing flocks - from its static unit in Edinburgh rather than running the first of its mobile sessions in Nottingham.

(L-R): Kirsty McLean; Tim Greenow; John Gordon (CT Scanning Service) and Andrew Walton.

Kirsty McLean; Tim Greenow; John Gordon (CT Scanning Service) and Andrew Walton.

Kirsty McLean, manager of the CT scanning service explained, “We normally scan a minimum of 100 lambs over two days but unfortunately because of Schmallenberg Virus there have not been enough early lambs on the ground in England this year to make the first of our trips with the mobile CT scanner feasible. Instead, a smaller number of English Charollais breeders are travelling north for our first session of 2013.”

For Andrew Walton, whose Rainbow flock is based at Church Farm in Cheshire and Tim Greenow who breeds his Fortress flock at Dinedor Cross Farm, Hereford, it is a trip worth making. They brought the best of their male lambs north yesterday, along with a group from the Brettles flock from Worcestershire. Each lamb was scanned to measure its muscle, fat and bone, allowing the breeder to identify the ‘elite’ of their animals for breeding.

Andrew, a Director of the British Charollais Society, lost 35 out of 200 lambs from his flock due to SBV. He said: “Compared to the damage Schmallenberg has done to other flocks, I got off relatively lightly – some have lost up to 70% of their lambs. Fewer lambs mean less demand for the scanning service. It’s very unfortunate because, for me, scanning is an integral part of a breeding a selection programme. Not only does it benefit my own business but scanning data contributes to more accurate Estimate Breeding Values for the breed as a whole. So to see other Charollais breeders miss out due to Schmallenberg is extremely unfortunate.”

The static CT scanning service has been operating since 1997 and the mobile unit since 2009. Following strict animal welfare guidelines, sheep receive a mild sedative before they are positioned on the scanning table, lying calmly as it moves through the scanning ring. In the operator’s room, images taken by the scanner are captured in a computer programme for future analysis using software designed by Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS). The whole operation takes just a few minutes before the lambs are back in their pen eating and drinking.

From the computer screen, the operators can select from hundreds of virtual “slices” through the animal’s body, allowing them to look at internal organs, muscle groups, fat deposits and the skeleton. The technology even allows 3D images of the whole animal to appear on the screen so it can be looked at from every angle. All the computerised information gathered is added to the Signet Sheepbreeder database for various sheep breeds, which along with SRUCs Egenes group produce estimated breeding values which the breeders use to help in the continuous selection of the best animals to use for breed from the next generation of lambs.

The SRUC Mobile Scanning Service will travel to Nottingham University in July to scan pedigree Texel lambs and to Aberystwyth and Midhurst in Sussex in August and September. A final trip to Yorkshire in September to scan Meatlinc lambs will complete the season. English and Scottish sheep breeders using SRUC’s CT scanning service, both with the static unit in Scotland and the mobile unit, receive support from the English meat promotion body EBLEX and Quality Meat Scotland respectively.

The CT unit will also be scanning sheep throughout the year as part of a number of research projects being undertaken by SRUC and other institutes.


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