The French Connection continues in the Highlands

Published Wednesday, 19th July 2017 in Hill & Mountain Research Centre news

Kirkton french student story agathe malzac may
Photo caption: Agathe assisting at lambing time.

A French student from sunny Bordeaux in the south west of France has just completed a five month internship at SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre, near Crianlarich.

Agathe Malzac is a student at AgroParisTech, a University which trains students to Master of Science level in agriculture and agronomy. She had already worked on a number of different farms in France, including sheep farms in the Southern Alps, and was keen to experience the Scottish hill sheep system.

Agathe’s first major task on SRUC’s Kirkton & Auchtertyre farms was to help farm staff tag and record the lambs being born in the Auchtertyre and the Corrie flocks on the farms. This tagging at birth – rather than weeks later when these high hill flocks are traditionally gathered in to mark the lambs – was a pilot this year to see if it was feasible to shed any light on lamb mortality rates and the Blackloss issue (unexplained loss of lambs in the hills) in these flocks.

It was very demanding in time and labour, but provided vital information on how many lambs were actually born in these flocks in May. This will allow research staff not only to compare those numbers with the number of potential lambs in the flocks assessed by ultrasound scanning in February but also just as importantly to know which lambs from which ewes may subsequently go missing in the hills between lambing and weaning in the autumn.

Throughout the rest of her internship, Agathe got involved in a wide range of activities associated with a research and demonstration farm, such as helping at all the sheep handling events, measuring grass heights, entering and analysing data and participating in a number of knowledge exchange events on and off the farms.

Although this was actually a pretty dry spring and summer in the Highlands, Agathe is looking forward to returning to the more consistent sun and heat of southern France!

Professor Davy McCracken, who heads the Hill & Mountain Research Centre, said: “Agathe’s assistance this spring and summer was invaluable. All the farm and research staff at Kirkton & Auchtertyre wish her well with the remainder of her studies in France.”

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