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Paradoxically, for Peter and Emma Cowie, last winter was an illuminating experience. They may have had to battle through some of the coldest, snowy months in living memory, but the adverse conditions forced a re-think on ewe nutrition – and so surprised were they with the excellent performance of the flock the new feeding regime is now a permanent fixture.

The Cowies run 950 predominantly Mule ewes plus a few pure-bred Lleyns at Carlincraig Farm, Fortrie near Turriff in Aberdeenshire. The farm extends to 500 acres, being a typical mixed lowland unit with a small acreage of cereals grown but predominantly a livestock holding. Peter and Emma now run the farm following a major restructure three years ago and much thought has been given to the implementation of effective and efficient policy changes.

“Last winter was our second on the farm following the major restructure and whilst it is always hard-going, for a few months last year it was really tough. The sheer depth of snow made getting about the farm extremely difficult, so much so that we couldn’t get the snacker out to the ewes. Over the winter months we feed rolls to the sheep, but it is very labour intensive and once the serious snow came the system became impossible. At that time we turned to our local Norvite representative and nutritionist for advice, and their help was invaluable,” she says.

They had various discussions with the Norvite team and it was suggested they should try Rumevite feed blocks. “We were initially a bit dubious, but because we simply couldn’t move the snacker, it was the only alternative. But we have to say the system worked unbelievably well, so much so that we are now complete converts and will be using three different block formulations to supplement the ewes this year – right through from pre-tupping, during late pregnancy and immediately post-lambing.”

Emma says considering the harsh winter, the ewes performed much better than expected. Despite the tough conditions, the ewes lambed down in three batches from the end of March until May with plenty of milk and lamb numbers were well up on the previous two years. “We were delighted with the performance, but the real eye-opener for us was the feeding efficiency benefits. Feeding blocks saved us so much time and fuel, and the ewes were much calmer as they were foraging better and getting their supplementary feed little and often when they needed it. When we were feeding the cobs, there was a lot of bumping and barging and much more poaching, as the ewes weren’t moving away from the feeders.”

Emma believes the block system will work out considerably cheaper, whilst at the same time improving sheep welfare and feeding efficiency. “Our financial year is the end of December and once we have analysed the sheep unit’s accounts I’m sure the figures will speak for themselves. But we are already convinced and will stick with the Rumevite system regardless of the weather this winter,” she says.

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