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Away Wintering Best Option for Scottish Sheep Farmers

13 October 2015

SCOTLAND, UK - In light of the new Scottish Upland Sheep Support (SUSS) Scheme SAC Consulting is advising farmers and crofters to consider away wintering their hoggs if possible.

This is particularly important for the Region 3 farmers and crofters who are eligible for the scheme as they have, by definition, the poorest land quality.

Niall Campbell from the Oban Office of SAC Consulting explains: “The costs of away wintering vs home wintering are very similar, however away wintering has added benefits over the lifetime of the hogg, releases forage for the ewes back home and could also reduce the farm’s carbon footprint.

"Due to these benefits, whether you are eligible for SUSS or not, away wintering is still judged as the more sensible option.”

The new SUSS scheme has an application deadline of 16 October, with hoggs to be retained until 31 March. To be eligible for SUSS a business must have over 80% Region 3 and under 200 ha Region 1.

The maximum claim is one hogg per four hectares of Region 3 and each eligible hogg has an estimated payment of €100 per head. Any losses of claimed animals during the retention period must be notified to SGRPID.

At a recent Farming for a Better a Climate Event, run by SAC Consulting and funded by the Scottish Government, Niall’s colleague Rhidian Jones talked to the farmers about the pros and cons of different winter management.

Keeping the hoggs at home can be safer in terms of biosecurity, and is often simpler letting the farmer or crofter maintain control, as well as avoiding the hassle of organising transportation and movement recording. However, there are a number of negatives to be considered, first and foremost the cost of buying in extra feed, especially if you are wintering hoggs inside, increased labour and the potential impact on forage availability for the breeding ewes.

The benefits of away wintering are also substantial. Without the hoggs to compete with ewes can graze the best quality grass, keeping to the target body condition, which of course will mean healthier ewes and a better lambing the following spring. It also offers reduced labour requirements, and eliminates concerns around poor quality grass for any hoggs wintered outside.

If farmers and crofters then decide to sell some of these hoggs at the end of the retention period, then they could go straight from wintering ground to market or slaughterhouse without then need to come all the way home.

Niall concluded: “If you can source particularly cheap feed (particularly distillery by-products) then home wintering is a perfectly viable option. But in general away wintering offers higher overall benefits.

"The key to managing your hoggs efficiently is to have a strategy in place from the beginning and understand what market you are aiming for at the end of the retention period.”

TheSheepSite News Desk

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