Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Series 4


M A C Johns


Sheep, Pregnancy diagnosis, Ultrasound

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Few Western Australian ewe flocks are diagnosed for pregnancy despite the precence of high numbers of barren ewes. Surveys of farm flocks in the early 1970s recorded that between 14 and 29 per cent of ewes failed to lamb each year.

Techniques for diagnosing pregnant ewes have been available for many years, but ultrasonic devices and computer technology have made it possible for skilled operators to determine whether ewes are pregnant and more importantly, whether they have one, two or more foetuses.

Once the number of pregnant ewes is known farmers can use labour more efficiently. They can minimise the cost of supplementary feeding, particularily if the use of diagnostic techniques identifies ewes bearing twin lambs. Failure to carefully manage a flock with multiple lambs could lead to reduced wool production per head, reduced lamb growth and morre ewe and lamb deaths.