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Spring Lambing

9 Feb 2017

tips for lambing

Top Tips for Healthy Lambs

By Katie Scotter- VetMB BA MRCVS, Molecare Veterinary Services

Spring lambing is here and early lambers could have the bulk on the ground already.

But here are some top tips for producing fit, healthy and productive lambs for a good summer crop.
Ewes pregnant over winter must be managed carefully to ensure good lamb and placental growth. It is also important for good colostrum and milk production. Your aim should be to maintain BCS 3 (-0.5 for hill ewes) in early and late pregnancy, with scope to lose a little condition in mid-pregnancy. Scan 90 days after rams-in, to gauge how much supplementary feeding is required. Protein levels are important for milk production – invest in quality feeds or well-managed pastures for early lactation ewes.

Colostrum - a 4-5kg newborn lamb needs 2x250ml of good quality colostrum in the first six hours. Being born with no immunity, they rely entirely on colostrum to protect them.

  • Navel dip - the umbilical cord can speed infection straight into the lamb’s abdomen, especially in an unhygienic environment. This can lead to navel ill, joint ill, septicaemia and death. Use iodine dip as soon as possible.
  • Hygiene - a clean environment, whether indoors or out, is essential. Even with good colostrum and navel management, a dirty pen can overcome a newborn lamb. Cleanliness when assisting lambing is important for both human and sheep health.
  • Ewe examination - shortly after lambing, check the ewe’s teeth, body condition, feet, udder and vulva. Consider adopting a lamb from a double – better to rear one well, than two badly. 
  • Vaccination - is one of the most effective ways to protect lambs from a variety of diseases – whether administered directly to the lamb or indirectly via ewe’s colostrum. Vaccines protect against enzootic abortion, toxoplasmosis and schmallenberg. Assess your farm’s risk with your vet and decide which are cost-effective. 
  • Protect - against clostridial diseases and pasteurella pneumonia - initially via ewe’s colostrum and later by vaccinating lambs. This is probably the most cost-effective way to prevent sudden deaths, as infections are found almost everywhere. Blood sampling of ewes is also recommended if barren rates exceed 15% or abortions 2%. 
  • Supplementary feeding – tube feed sick lambs until they can lift their head and swallow. Seek vet advice if the lamb is flat out and unable to lift its head. Choose the highest quality colostrum or milk replacer you can afford and always disinfect equipment between lambs. 
  • Faecal egg counting - once ewes and lambs are turned out and grazing, parasites become the biggest risks to lamb growth. Whether gut worms or coccidiosis, start sampling when lambs are around six weeks old. Take a sample of dung from 10% of lambs or ten individuals in each group; mix samples and send for assessment. Re-assess approximately every three weeks throughout the risk season, or where daily temperatures average more than ten degrees.

Working in partnership with leading vets, Mole Country Stores supports livestock farmers through the entire live cycle of their flocks and herds. Please visit a store near you for the best in product and choice.  Use our lambing order form for ease of ordering.


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