Ultrasound Scanning remains an optional component of the LambPlus performance recording scheme. Ultrasound scanning is used to replace factory carcass data that is yet not available in abundant amounts due to the nature of the industry, and this is the common practice in all the top breed improvement programmes around the world. In 2013 around 60% of all the LambPlus flocks scanned their lambs, with some breeds having a much higher percentage of its recorded lambs than others.


  • Ultrasound scanning information is used to predict carcass conformation and fat. The more Muscle and Fat depth information we collect from a flock and/or breed, the higher the accuracy of the evaluation for the sheep, therefore giving you and your potential customers more confidence in their purchasing decision.
  • If your lambs are scanned between 121 and 180 days of age this will also count as your third lamb weight (not including birth weight). Lambs will also be scored for lameness, dagginess and condition score on the day, all of which will contribute to the health index which now forms part of both the Terminal and Replacement Indexes.
  • Muscle and Fat scanning contributes to the flocks DQI.


A minimum criteria has been implemented for scanning flocks.

In order to have your lambs scanned a minimum criteria must be fulfilled:

  • All lambs must be presented and tagged with the official NSIS tag prior to the day of scanning  (No NSIS = No Scanning)
  • Breeders must have an accurate working weight scales to weigh their lambs on the day
  • All (Male and Female) lambs must be presented for scanning
  • Where possible a minimum of 15 to 20 progeny per sire used should be scanned in order to deliver reliable estimates of genetic merit
  • The grouping of lambs into their different management groups is of critical importance. Lambs fed/managed under differing systems must be grouped accordingly as assessing these lambs performance on the same level is completely false and only serves to bias and distort the €uroStar evaluation.
  • In order to achieve full DQI marks for scanning flocks will be required to scan 50% of their lambs with the remaining lambs all being weighed
  • Ideally the scanning should take place undercover, preferably in a building without direct sunlight so the scans can be easily seen and to comply with electrical safety regulations.
  • Mains power is necessary at the scanning point.
  • A large table (or six small bales) is required for the scanning equipment and should be protected in some way from the lambs being scanned.
  • Handling facilities should be adequate to ensure that lambs are presented at the scanning point.
  • A scanning crate (handling crate) will be provided by the scanning technician.
  • It is necessary to apply liquid paraffin to the scanning site. (If lambs are to be sheared, the scanning should be done first). A minimum amount of paraffin is used but the amount needed is affected by temperature, wool absorption, and site conditions. Subsequent marks may be seen on animals if the site attracts soil particles or resists sheep dips used.
  • Have your flock notebook to hand in case there are any queries when processing the scanning data.
  • Once Sheep Ireland has received notice that you wish to scan we will make contact with you over the following weeks to arrange a suitable time. The majority of lambs should be over 35kg at the time of scanning and under 180 days of age.

What does this add to your evaluations?

Ultrasound scanning information is used as a predictor of carcass conformation and fat which are important traits to the commercial farmer and the €uro-Star evaluations. The more scanning information we collect from your flock and/or breed, the higher the accuracy of the evaluation for your sheep will be, therefore giving you and your potential customers more confidence in their purchasing decision.

Ultrasound scanning is also used to predict the mature weight of animals, this is participially important for the maternal breeds, as mature weight has a large influence on the Replacement index, this being said, it is just as important for Replacement breeders to scan their lambs as it is for Terminal breeders and collect mature weights for their ewes where possible.

How do I get my lambs scanned?

If you wish to have your flock scanned for Muscle and Fat depth this year, please E-mail: [email protected] before May 20th. including the following in your email:

  • Your name
  • Flock designator
  • An estimate of the number of lambs you wish to scan

Unfortunately, flocks who try to book after this date can not be guaranteed access to the service. This deadline is due to the expected high demand for the service and Sheep Ireland will need time to plan a structured timetable in order to visit as many farms in the same area on the same day and to make sure we can give breeders sufficient time to plan for the day which will greatly increase our efficiency’s and keeping the cost of scanning as low as possible.

Information collected on the day of scanning

If you choose to scan your lambs these are the important pieces of information collected on the day

  1. Lambs Live Weight
  2. Lambs Muscle Depth
  3. Lambs Fat Depth
  4. Lambs Dag Score
  5. Lambs Lameness score

Below is an example of the cut of meat that the sheep Ireland technicians will be measuring. The yellow line represents what would be the depth of muscle for this animal.

This is the muscle that is being measured when lambs are being ultrasonically scanned

When will my Lambs be scanned?

Lambs should be scanned at around 5 months of age and be at least 35kg, this is to ensure that there is good variation in the fat measurements. Sheep Ireland will select the most suitable window for your flock based on the date of birth and the breed of the lambs in the flock.

On the day of Scanning

  • Breeders are required to present all their lambs for scanning even if they do not plan on scanning all their lambs as the lambs must be selected at random, both males and females. The technician will exclude any late late born lambs or any lambs that are thriving very poorly due to some medical or nutritional problem.
  • Farmers must have an accurate weighing create there on the day and the technician will verify the scales with a measured weight.
  • All lambs must have their NSIS Tags recorded on the Sheep Ireland database before scanning can be confirmed.
  • Breeders should have their lambing notebooks present on the day in order to clear up any issues that may arise on the day.
  • Ideally lambs should be housed at least an hour before the technician starts to scan to ensure lambs are under as little stress as possible at the time of scanning
  • A power point must be supplied
  • A table/flat surface for the scanning equipment must be supplied and it must be protected from the sheep, ideally this would be indoors to avoid a glare on the monitor screens
  • The technicians will have to apply a small amount of oil on the skin of the lambs in order to scan the sheep and this may cause a temporary  stain on the fleece

Once scanning is complete all the information recorded on the day will instantly be uploaded to the Sheep Ireland database via the Sheep Ireland App with the information being included in the next evaluation.

 Scanning Charges

The scanning charges used last year will remain in place for the 2019 season. Price is as follows:

  • Call out charge – €150 (will include the scanning, weighing and scoring of 25 lambs)
  • Next 55 lambs scanned – charged €2.50 per lamb scanned
  • Greater than 80 lambs scanned – charged €0.50 per lamb
  • All lambs will be weighed and scored at no extra cost to the breeder

Note – VAT is included in these prices

Payment for this scanning service will need to be made on the day of scanning by all breeders. There can be no exceptions to this rule.




Frequently asked questions:

If my lambs are grass-fed only, will this affect my scan results and therefore my evaluations?

No, the evaluation looks at each flock separately before it compares it to other flocks within the breed.

For example: Farmer A and Farmer B share the same ram, however Farmer A only feeds his ewes and lambs with grass after lambing and until the point of scanning and Farmer B feeds a considerable amount of concentrates to his ewes and lambs to increase the lambs ADG and therefore muscle depth, fat depth and live weight will be different between both flocks.

However the evaluation knows that all these lambs are sired by the same ram and therefore should be performing the same if they were managed the same. It then accounts for the management difference encountered between the farms leaving both farms on an even playing field again.

Will waiting until my lambs are >70kgs before scanning improve my stars?

Delaying the scanning date beyond the recommended so that all lambs will be heavier will not affect the overall outcome of the stars in the evaluation run as all scans are adjusted for age, sex, group ect… As long as lambs have a reasonable fat cover the scanning technician can pick up some fat score variations.

What’s a good muscle score?

There is no defined level over which all scores go from being average to good. A raw scan result is greatly influenced by many non-genetic factors which the evaluation attempts to remove (feed quality, environment, age ect…). When muscle scores are being evaluated they are first compared to other similar lambs within the flock, before being compared to other flocks with similar bloodlines.

Do I have to scan all my lambs?

No, while it would be desirable to scan all the lambs in the flock, it is recommended to at least target to scan 15-20 lambs per sire where possible.

Do I just scan my best ram lambs?

No, If you only scan your best lambs then you are comparing your best to your best and therefore the scanning may not contribute much to your evaluations. For the best results, it is best to scan a random sample of lambs (male and females), from the good to the poor confirmation. This will give the evaluations the best information to provide the most accurate €uro-Stars possible.