Looking out for your lambs

Looking at increasing the percentage of lambs that survive

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Looking out for your lambs – With most of you now having some (if not all) of your lambs on the ground, we’re going to look at a number of key considerations and actions you can take to maximise growth rates & increase the percentage of lambs that survive from weaning to point of sale. Your target for lamb deaths from weaning to sale should be <2%.

Clostridia & Pasteurella

If you boost ewes immunity pre-lambing with a clostridia & pasteurella vaccine, and make sure that lambs receive adequate colostrum in the first 24 hours, then you’ve given your lambs the best start in life.

However, that maternally derived immunity (MDI) against both pathogens starts to wane by the time lambs reach one month old. With clostridial bacteria naturally occurring in almost all pasture, and the causative agents of pasteurella pneumonia (P.multocida & M.haemolytica) naturally living on the tonsils of sheep of all ages, providing protection against these diseases to your lambs is paramount.

P.multocida & M.haemolytica usually take advantage of periods of stress & changes in weather or environment to set up clinical infection and cause disease. Lambs undergo several periods of stress in the first few months (e.g weaning and turnout), it’s very easy for widespread disease to occur and cause significant numbers of lamb deaths.

To protect against these diseases we strongly recommend using a combined clostridia & pasteurella vaccination, such as HeptavacP plus or OvivacP, giving a first dose at 3-4 weeks of age and a second dose at 8-10 weeks of age.

vaccination protection

Nematodirus battus

With particularly cold weather in January & February we may well see earlier bouts of nematodirosis with mass hatching as the weather warms to over 10ºC.

Typically causing sudden death, profuse diarrhoea, dull or de-pressed lambs and rapid weight loss, Nematodirus battus is not a parasite to be underestimated. As always prevention is better than cure so know your risk & if at all possible avoid grazing lambs on pasture grazed by lambs in 2020 as this may well have over-wintered N.battus eggs which could hatch and infect this year’s lambs.

We can detect N.battus through post mortem examination, either on farm or by sending samples (or entire lambs) to Nottingham University’s post mortem service. If you find dead lambs and are suspicious of N.battus, call us so we can organise a post mortem examination for you. Faecal egg counts are useful in lambs with diarrhoea as N.battus is not the only cause of lamb diarrhoea. Other causes such as coccidiosis can also cause similar signs which we could detect at faecal egg count. N.battus worms will have been infecting your lambs for several weeks before eggs are seen in an FEC. If we see even one egg you should treat for N.battus. SCOPS run a useful nematodirus forecast on their website, and it is well worth keeping an eye on this site throughout the risk period. Currently, N.battus is still well controlled by group 1 ‘white’ wormers such as Endospec.


Finished lambing and reflecting on how it’s gone?

We recommend having a post lambing review whilst lambing 2021 is still fresh in your mind! Especially if you used one of our new lambing recording charts. For Flock Health Club members we recommend doing this as part of your free 60 minute flock health & management plan visit. Call us to book in for a post lambing review, and to discuss how we can optimise lamb survival and growth rates as well as things to consider ahead of the next breeding season.

If you are currently lambing and have >2% of the flock abort, or more than 3 abortions in the space of 2 days, this should be investigated urgently.

Out of hours emergency

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