Concern over lamb loss

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Island crofters are reporting a much higher number of stillborn lambs on Lewis and Harris this year.

In many cases this is down to listeria which can be caused by poor quality silage.

Others have speculated that it could be due to contamination of grazings by geese.

Western Isles representative on the Crofting Commision, Murdo Maclennan said it was early in the season to make an assessment but that poor quality silage could be one reason.

He said there had been a shortage of bales in some places which meant people might use older bales which could cause problems.

Over on St Kilda, there have also been big losses in the Soay sheep population.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) are reporting a population crash and say the weather conditions could be a factor.

Dr Richard Luxmore, Senior Nature Conservation Adviser at NTS said: “The Soay Sheep of St Kilda are treated as wild animals and, as such, are subject to natural mortality. It is normal for sheep to die towards the end of the winter because they tend to be at their lowest nutritional status, having survived for several months with poor grazing and being subject to additional demands of pregnancy.”

He added: “The sheep population has been studied for many years by researchers from Edinburgh and Cambridge Universities and it has been shown that they undergo fairly regular fluctuations, building up to high numbers over several years and then suffering a population “crash” with heavy mortality which returns the population to a more normal level. We have been anticipating a population crash for several years as the numbers had built up to very high levels and the crash was overdue. It is not known precisely what precipitates a crash but it is thought to be associated with weather conditions. The wet, windy weather this spring may have been a contributory factor.”