Leading the flock: RVC launches “Flockmaster” course - Veterinary Practice
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Leading the flock: RVC launches “Flockmaster” course

The Royal Veterinary College has launched a new “Flockmaster” course which aims to help sheep farmers increase their flock productivity and improve the health of their sheep

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has launched a new “Flockmaster” course for sheep farmers, shepherds, and smallholders to help them build knowledge and skills to protect and increase their flock productivity and improve the health of their sheep.

Rearing sheep is a highly complex process with risks at purchase, breeding, lambing and rearing lambs. For example, a recent survey found that 18 percent of breeding rams had foot issues, 8 percent had soft testes and 50 percent were not at the target body condition – all of which can affect the reproductive performance of the flock. Similarly, fewer than 5 percent of farmers routinely screen for so-called iceberg diseases, but the percentage of flocks infected with one of these, Johne’s disease, has been estimated as high as 64 percent.

To support the healthy and productive rearing of sheep and to better prevent disease, the RVC has launched a new “Flockmaster” course. The course is designed for both commercial and small-scale sheep farmers, shepherds and smallholders with the aim of sharing and expanding their knowledge and improving their practices.

Throughout the course, participants will have the opportunity to improve their practical skills and knowledge relating to the whole sheep production cycle. This includes selecting animals for purchase and breeding, tupping, pregnancy and lambing, to optimising lamb survival, growth rates and production.

Starting in July 2022, participants in the “Flockmaster” course can take part in four sessions to build their knowledge. Although designed to run as a series, the sessions are also independent of one another to enable sheep keepers to take part in the areas of most relevance to them, even if they are unable to attend the whole course.

The first session in July will cover areas such as how to optimise reproductive performance on their farm and how to structure their purchases of sheep to minimise the risk of disease introduction. Topics included in other sessions, which will run in December 2022, February 2023 and May 2023, will cover preparing ewes adequately for lambing, as well as lambing itself, and ewe and lamb management from birth to eight weeks.

The “Flockmaster” course will also develop participants’ skills to ensure growth rates and lamb survival is maximised to get the best out of their lambs, both for replacement and selling.

James Patrick Crilly, lecturer in small ruminant health and flock management at the RVC said: “As part of the farm animal team at the RVC, I am delighted we are now offering this course. Through the sheep year, it will provide participants with timely and relevant skills and knowledge to improve the health and productivity of their flock.

“We have seen firsthand how some of these conditions can inhibit flock health and production so by further educating both novice and experienced sheep farmers, shepherds, and smallholders, the cumulative effect of even small changes in flock management can effect great improvements in performance.”

The sessions in the “Flockmaster” course will run from 10 am to 5 pm and will involve practical sessions with the RVC’s Boltons Park Farm sheep flock. For more information, interested parties can visit the website.

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