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Mothering Up

Mothering Up

Spring time is very exciting at Glenwood Merinos – it is when all our baby lambs are born. We have 1000 stud ewes (mothers) giving birth to approximately 1,300 baby lambs.

Two months prior to the babies being born (“Lambing”) Norm employs an expert in his field - Sheep Scanner - Andrew Sherman from Gollan (30 minutes NW of Glenwood).

Andrew comes each year and scans our pregnant mums. This involves a little management ensuring the ewes are close to the shearing shed so they can be brought in and scanned one by one. This is basically an ultra sound machine – each ewe is brought into the race/pen – Norm scans their electronic ear tag with his magic wand which is connected to his laptop. Andrew then places his ‘doppler’ with jelly on it (just like when humans have an ultra sound) on their abdomen whilst they are standing up and is able to look and see if they have a single, twin or triplet pregnancy. This information is all so important as it is stored onto Norm’s laptop so we can trace the lambs and ewes and their progeny throughout their life cycle.

After a ewe has had their ultra sound they are split into groups of singles, twins and triplets for “lambing”. This way Norm can manage their care according to their specific needs. For example the ewes expecting twins and triplets are kept closer to the yards than the singles – with access to extra feed, supplements and good shelter for the last 6 weeks to ensure they are able to give birth to healthy little lambs. The singles are also looked after extremely well but are able to be “lambed down” in paddocks further away with plenty of shelter and feed. 

We find this very helpful for the first month or two after the ewes have given birth so Norm is able to “mother up” the lambs and give them each an ear tag so the lambs can then be tracked throughout their life.

When we mother-up up the ewes and lambs – it is done quietly and slowly into the closest yards to where they have given birth in small groups. This is quite a long process and you need to have a lot of patience – of which my husband Norm is amazing with – although I do believe he perhaps has more patience with his beloved sheep than his beloved wife!

When we have approximately 6 ewes and their lambs in a small yard we scan the mothers ear tag with Norms magic wand. Norm then catches the baby lamb with his Sheppard’s hook and we then give the lamb a small electronic ear tag which then connects the lamb on the laptop with their mothers.

The electronic ear tag is quite small and when attached to the lamb’s ear is very quick and painless. The lambs and ewes are then let out together and at the end of the mob of sheep that are being mothered up taken to back to the paddock they came from.

This is a very gentle process and is actually a beautiful way to pass the morning or afternoon. Like I said it is a very time consuming if you think about each mob and each smaller group of mums and lambs being brought in slowly at their own pace – over the whole flock of ewes on Glenwood, you will understand where a lot of Norms time goes in Spring (week days and weekends) in between all the usual everyday jobs on Glenwood.

We are very fortunate to have 5 healthy children and they are always up for the job when they are not at school, which makes it lovely family time and time spent with Dad.

The main reasons for electronic ear tagging is to track each individual lamb/sheep’s improvements and performance throughout their life span. From body weight and type, fleece weight, fertility, muscle percentage and fat percentage. All these factors are important information that we then use for improving practices and management of our animals – from joining – to grazing.

Andrew Sherman can be contacted at aasherman@bigpond.com

Until next time – stay safe and happy

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