Recent renewed drives to maintain farming activities on extensive areas have been encouraged at the EU level, which previously had witnessed a phenomenon of partial abandonment and reduction in flock sizes. Successful restocking with naïve animals from outwith the farm is a challenge, as these animals are not familiar with the landscape and may lack the social interactions and ‘hefting’ qualities their homebred counterparts develop. This paper presents results from an experiment where young ewes from different origins (homebred and bought-in) were reintroduced onto a mountain range grazing area. Focal animals of both types were monitored using GPS tracking collars over a one year period whilst performance was recorded for the whole flock over a two year period, to gauge whether or not their origin had an influence on ranging behaviour and performance. Although initially the bought-in animals developed their own home range and interacted little with the main flock, after one summer grazing period they appeared to learn from and socially interact with their homebred counterparts, developing a knowledge of the grazing landscape. Despite initial weight change differences, later performance results of the animals were not affected by their origin. Provided that animals are encouraged and given opportunity to socially interact with the main homebred flock, this study indicates that it is feasible to restock extensive farms with animals from different origins.
Morgan-Davies, C., Morgan-Davies, J., Beaton, I., Kyle, J., Waterhouse, A., & McCracken, DI. (2016). Restocking extensive mountain areas with young ewes - does origin matter? Small Ruminant Research, 137, 99 - 108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smallrumres.2016.03.018