Lambing advise from Westpoint Farm Vets

Getting the lambing facilities ready

  • Good hygiene of the lambing environment for both indoor and outdoor systems – with appropriate stocking densities and lie-back areas and lambing pens that are dry, draft-free and cleanly bedded with appropriate cleansing and disinfection between occupants.
  • When lambing assistance is required, clean gloves should be used for all ewes and hands regularly washed. Navels should be fully immersed in a 10% iodine solution as promptly as possible after birth.
  • Maximum hygiene during husbandry procedures such as stomach tubing, ear tagging and castration or tailing (only undertake where necessary) & suitable cleansing and disinfection of equipment between individual animals.

Key Rules for colostrum feeding: Quality, Quantity, Quickly

  • All lambs should receive 50ml/kg of colostrum in the first 2 hours following birth and a total of 200-250 ml/ kg before end of 24 hours, so a 4kg lamb at birth needs 800ml of colostrum to give it essential levels of natural immunity. 
  • If not adequate supply, quality or quantity - substitute with other ewes colostrum, goat1 or cow2 colostrum or commercial substitutes3 . Save good colostrum in zip lock bags for easy defrosting.
  • Gently defrost for use (don’t zap it in a microwave as this will damage the IgG). If too hot for your hand then too hot for colostrum. It should be heated to 39°C

Suggestions for use of oral antibiotics in prevention of watery mouth

  • Good practice: providing lambs adequate colostrum, quickly enough, will enable them to cope with a few bugs without need for antibiotic treatments and establish a healthy population. Colostrum-deprived lamb is not able to control the multiplication of E.coli.
  • Target treatments:
  1. Identify low and high risk lambs in order to target treatments
  2. Try to step away from blanket treatment of all lambs at birth as it is not appropriate for all lambs to be treated routinely from the start of a new lambing season.
  3. Lower risk lambs: have received adequate colostrum, are fit and healthy single lambs, born in the first week of lambing into clean, dry and well-sheltered environment
  4. Antibiotics against watery mouth should be reserved for priority cases, targeted towards high risk lambs: triplet or low birth weight lambs that are born later on in lambing period with more challenging environmental conditions into group with recent clinical cases; lambs born to thin and/or poorly fed ewes.
  • Start with small changes: first try to keep 10% or more without treatment; then, from there on, assess, monitor and allow for changes to plan.

Ask your vet for guidance for your flock

1 is safer than from cows; should come from CAE-accredited herds

2 should be pooled and as it is not as concentrated, then 30% more needed to make up the energy; should come from a Johne’s free herd

3 are expensive and often relatively poor in both energy and antibody content

1st February 2021

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