Data gathering to help solve lambing trouble
Seven livestock industry bodies have joined forces to gauge the effects of last year's poor weather and prevalence of disease among this year's lamb crop, such as Schmallenberg Virus.
The online survey, which went live this week, is aimed at producers in Great Britain as they finish lambing and can record certain key performance figures.
It will be followed by a calf crop survey in the coming weeks.
It is designed to take less than 10 minutes to complete and the organisations hope it will provide an ongoing weekly snapshot of how lambing is progressing, and if and what health trends are emerging.
The project is a joint venture between the English Beef & Lamb Executive, Meat Promotion Wales, the National Beef Association, the NFU, the National Sheep Association and Quality Meat Scotland, with the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency providing scientific veterinary advice.
All are encouraging farmers to answer the questions to the best of their knowledge, whether they experience any problems or not, in order that specific projects can be tailored to help if problems do emerge.
"Obviously Schmallenberg Virus is something that everyone is worried about – but it is currently difficult to get a true picture of how many flocks are affected and the prevalence in any particular flock," read a joint statement from the group.
"However, there are plenty of other factors which could affect the lamb crop, such as the poor weather conditions and liver fluke. Without hard data, we cannot co-ordinate a response that helps farmers.
"This is not an in-depth scientific survey, so will take less than 10 minutes to complete. But the collective picture built from individuals' responses will significantly help our understanding of the grassroots situation. We would urge all sheep farmers in Great Britain – and beef cattle farmers for the calf crop survey that is to follow – to do their bit for the industry and fill in their results."
The responses are anonymous, although if individuals do want analysis feedback as the season progresses, they can leave an email address for this. The data will be interrogated regularly to build a picture of the season's lambing and the survey will stay open until late May.
The survey may be accessed at www.surveymonkey.com/s/WWHBNC5, or visit the websites of any of the organisations.