Every year ahead of lambing we get all the pregnant sheep in to scan them. Exactly the same as with human pregnancy an ultrasound machine is used that shows how many lambs each ewe is expecting!
Depending on when their sheep are due to lamb every farmer tends to scan his sheep at different times. For us our first bunch is due the end of February so we can scan around the beginning of December, about 12 weeks prior to their due date.
We, ourselves, are not trained to scan sheep and so we have a guy who comes to the farm and scans them for us. He is specially trained and knows exactly what he is looking for. Just like with a pregnant women he puts some jelly on their tummy and uses an ultrasound camera to see inside. As a sheep obviously isn’t going to roll over and lie still while you scan their belly we use something called a race. It is basically like a funnel- the sheep start in a large pen and gradually filter into a smaller pen, then into a single file line that goes onto a platform next to the scanning machine. The scanner has the power to open and close the front gate that allows them through one by one.
When he has a sheep on the platform he puts the gel’d camera onto their tummy and it shows up on the screen. He will then shout how many that particular ewe is having.
For us we use red if they are barren- as its the first bunch, these will then get scanned again with the next bunch. Blue spray for one, nothing for twins as this is the most common and green spray for triplets. As he knows we don’t spray twins he lets these go automatically.
We keep going until every sheep in this particular bunch has been scanned. Nearer the time they are due to lamb we will separate them into colours to give them the appropriate amount of feed but for now we leave them as one big group. Thats it, scanning for this bunch over, so it’s onto the next bunch in a couple of weeks time!
I managed to video this scanning for my YouTube channel. It was a but of a nightmare being so close to Christmas as my other half was busy at the shop, I managed to rope my dad in to help before he went out but with a toddler, new born and not much help it was a bit of a struggle!