With the Brexit deadline looming and uncertainty still surrounding the future status of valuable European export markets, more than 90% of UK sheep producers say it will be very important to rear as many lambs born alive as possible in 2019.

That’s according to the latest research carried out by Volac to examine surplus lamb rearing intentions and practices. Over 500 (521) farms participated in the online survey.

More than 51% of farms surveyed see an opportunity to rear more lambs artificially next year with 85% of units now saying they have a system in place to carry out this task.

Volac’s Technical Officer, Abi Erian, said the survey findings give an interesting insight into UK surplus lamb rearing in both small (<100 ewes) and larger (>250 ewes) flocks.

“Not surprisingly, in the main the lambs being reared artificially are those from triplet-bearing ewes, together with any orphans. On the whole just under 80% of farmers say that if a ewe has had triplets one lamb would be removed, although in larger flocks the figure is nearer 90%. Smaller flocks are less likely to remove a third lamb with only 75% of units saying they carry out this practice.

“What is particularly interesting though is the lamb selection choice criteria employed. In larger flocks just under 50% of flocks remove the odd one out in a group of three – which is what we would recommend – whereas only 28% of smaller flocks do this.

“It is always best to leave a balanced pair of lambs on the mother. A mix of criteria are being employed to make the choice, with the most favoured approach being removal of the weakest lamb (19% of units). Other norms include always taking the strongest lamb (17%), or the smallest (15%). Just under 6% of farmers say they typically select the largest triplet, a similar proportion said they tend to remove a male lamb with just under 1% saying they generally take a female.”

Across the whole sample more than 68% of farmers would also consider removing a lamb from a twin-bearing ewe lamb to take the pressure off and allow her to keep milking and growing.

However, larger flocks (78%) are more likely to carry out this practice than smaller flocks (64%).