As we enter the new year, lambing season is nearly upon us again. In fact, for a number of our clients, lambing will have already begun! We’ve highlighted a few key considerations and actions to take now, ahead of lambing.
‘Colostrum is gold’ as the saying goes, but not all colostrum is equal with some containing insufficient antibody levels. To ensure lambs receive enough antibodies in the colostrum against clostridial diseases, ewes need to be given a HeptavacP booster 4 – 6 weeks before lambing. It’s important to remember that any unvaccinated stock who are lambing will need a primary course of two doses 4 – 6 weeks apart, with that second dose falling 4 – 6 weeks pre-lambing. Therefore, good calendar management is needed to ensure vaccines are ordered and administered in time.
Bloods and Nutrition
75% of lamb growth occurs in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. As a result correct nutrition in this period is essential to ensure a good birthweight and improve the quality of the ewe’s colostrum.
We can check urea and BHB levels, along with body condition score 4-6 weeks pre lambing to assess energy and protein adequacy of the diet. Target body condition 6 weeks pre-lambing should be BCS 3 – 3.5 for a lowland breed.
Trace elements also have a large role to play at lambing time. Whilst most of these won’t present themselves until the lambs are on the ground, the trace element (such as selenium, copper and cobalts) status of the ewes is important to prevent deficiencies, or worse – fatalities, in the lambs.
Why not have a number of your ewes blood sampled 4-6 weeks pre-lambing to check their status and allow supplementation if required to reduce lamb mortality?
If you’ve scanned this year, consider grouping based on the number of lambs at scanning to ensure you can meet the energy requirements of each ewe based on the number of lambs they are carrying.
Ewes carrying twins require 70% more nutrients than a non pregnant sheep so it’s important not to underfeed ewes carrying higher numbers of lambs as you risk outbreaks of twin lamb disease; likewise over feeding ewes carrying singles will lead to difficult lambings.
Housing and Logistics
If lambing indoors, have you got enough space?
The ideal set up will see a minimum of 1 individual lambing pen per 10 ewes, of 4ft x 4ft or 6ft x 3ft in size. Having sufficient clean, dry bedding to allow changes between ewes is important and consideration should be given to under-liming pens. Other things to consider should include having sufficient buckets for the individual pens for water +/- feed, as well as a method of cleaning these regularly.
If lambing outdoors, have you got enough shelter? No gaps in your fencing? And a system for identifying ewes or lambs needing treatment in the field?
For both systems: Have you got a clear system for recording info such as which sheep need medication and the numbers of live, dead lambs? In the middle of a busy lambing season it’s easy to lose track of the bigger picture so having a simple whiteboard for tallying this info can help keep an eye on the status of the flock and identify early any problematic trends. Abortion should be <2%, and anything above this warrants a prompt veterinary investigation.
Being able to respond and intervene in a timely manner, when required, is a key component of a successful lambing season. Ensuring you have the correct equipment, ahead of your lambing start date, will help prepare you so that you are ready for the
We do have two different lambing kits available which will save you money compared to buying the items individually. If you’d like more information on these you can contact our team or speak to your vet when they next visit.
We’d like to wish you a successful lambing when it comes around, and don’t forget we’re here when you need us; day or night.
We always have two dedicated farm vets on call out of hours to offer advice, attend lambings and perform caesareans or other procedures as required.
Contact the farm team at Markeaton to discuss your needs and how we can work with you and your flock to get you in the best position for a successful lambing.