The annual sheep scan took place on Tullamore Farm on Tuesday 11 January.

The ewe flock consists of 209 mature ewes/hoggets, while there was also 77 ewe lambs scanned ahead of lambing 2022.

This year saw a more positive scan, with an overall improvement in the scanning rate for both mature sheep and ewe lambs from 2021.

The mature ewes and hoggets scanned 121 doubles, 54 triplets, 48 singles and 12 barren ewes. This meant an average litter size per ewe joined of 1.84 and in-lamb rate of 1.9 lambs per ewe.

The barren rate of 5.7% is on the upper scale of where the farm would like to be, but thankfully has recorded a significant improvement on the figure of over 11% in January 2021.

Mature ewe scan

Performance in the ewe lamb flock was also deemed positive. There were 77 ewe lambs purchased or retained in 2021, with 70 of these joined with rams after the first breeding cycle with mature ewes and lambs.

The seven lambs which were not initially joined were held back as they were lighter lambs which were mixed in through some batches of purchased Mule ewe lambs.

These lambs were joined with the batch for the final week of breeding after thriving excellently in the previous week.

There were no high hopes for these seven lambs being bred during this period and two of the lambs were identified in lamb at scanning.

If this higher figure is included in the scanning figures, there is a barren rate of 15.5%, but if these are excluded, then the barren rate is 10%.

The ewe lambs scanned 35 singles and 29 doubles, giving an average litter size of 1.3 lambs per ewe lamb joined and an in-lamb rate of 1.4 lambs per ewe lamb, which farm manager Shaun Diver is pleased with.

Both these ewe groups were placed with rams for a tight breeding period of six weeks.

Commenting on the scanning results, Shaun said: “We were happy with this year’s results and I think it’s a good overall figure given the introduction of more terminal Texel genetics into the flock.”

Irish Farmers Journal sheep editor Darren Carty said: “We are happy with the improvement in performance given we had a significant issue with barren rates in 2021.

"We had expected that incorporating Texel genetics in to the flock would have reduced our average litter size, but on a quick examination of figures, the Texel-cross-Mule ewe hoggets appear to have scanned at in excess of 1.9 lambs, while the comparable Mule animals scanned at just over 1.8 lambs.

"We are still disappointed with the 2018-born Mules, which scanned in the region of 1.7 lambs, as, in previous years, these were continually scanning in excess of two lambs per ewe joined. We have to have a closer look at the figures to see if there are any aspects that stick out and can provide more clarity.”

The next job on Tullamore Farm is to shear the ewes for winter housing and separate them in order to facilitate correct feeding for lambing in the next few weeks.

We’ll be back on Tullamore Farm on Monday where we’ll be talking to Shaun Diver about winter shearing and why the farm shears ewes in winter.

We’ll also take a look at the feeding regime for ewes on the farm over the next few weeks in the run-up to lambing 2022. Stay tuned to for updates.