A significant proportion, around 10-25%, of lamb deaths occur in the first 48 hours after birth. This can be reduced to around only 5% when appropriate lambing routines are in place.
So, to boost the chances of your lambs this lambing season, here are some handy tips and things to keep in mind:
Individual lambing pens should be a minimum of 3 metres squared to ensure the lambs do not get smothered by the ewes. This gives the ewe enough room to move around and lessens the chances of them standing or laying on the lambs.
To reduce the risk of infection and spread of bacteria individual lambing pens should be cleaned out between ewes ideally, which isn’t always possible, but is good practice. Disinfecting the pens using something like Jeyes Fluid or Virkon S, will definitely help too.
Another area which is essential is dipping the newborn lambs navals in an iodine solution to prevent umbilical disease. Ensure that the navel is dipping in a 10% iodine solution in the first 15 minutes of life. If you miss dipping the lambs navel you run the risk of this becoming infected. Ideally dipping the navel again 2-3 hours later will lessen the risk even more. Nettex 10% Iodine Plus Solution can be purchased in store in 1 lite bottles or 500ml pumps.
Feeding ewes vitamin and mineral blocks or buckets pre lambing is essential in ensuring they have enough vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy during the demand of lambing. Products such as lifeline ewe and lamb mineral buckets are proven to aid the health of the ewe and lamb, even before birth.
These can also be fed to the ewes and lambs after lambing to give additional vitamins and minerals to the lactating ewe.
It is essential for a newborn lamb to receive colostrum in the first 6 hours after birth and this can really make the difference between life and death in the first few days. Colostrum is a source of crucial immunity, fat and laxative which is all vital to the newborn’s functions. Having an artificial source of colostrum to hand means that you have the best chance of getting the vital colostrum into the lamb as early as possible after birth. You could use products such as Nettex Lamb Colostrum or Volac Lamb Volostrum, both of which can be found in store. Colostrum feeder bottles with latex tubes can also be found in store.
Future nutrition and ultimately the long term survival of the lamb relies heavily on the ewe. It is a good idea to keep an eye on the condition of the ewe, which can be done using simple condition scoring. Being vigilant with the ewes will indicate problems early so that they can be dealt with.
Make sure that you have as many hands on deck as you can during the lambing season. DEFRA suggests it is best to have at least one person per 250 ewes, but this will also depend on how synchronised the flock is and the conditions or area the flock are kept. Ultimately it comes down to experience too and is better to have fewer, experienced people than lots of inexperienced people on hand.
Each lambing assistant should have some essential kit to hand throughout the lambing season. They should have disposable gloves, disinfectant, lubricant, lamb kickstart, iodine, twin lamb solution, ewe spoons, feeding tube and bottles, lamlac milk replacement and spray markers to mention a few.
The flock should be observed every hour at least during the lambing season, to make sure that none of the ewes run into any problems and cover overnight is definitely recommended during the busiest time.
It is a great idea, if possible, to set up an aftercare unit for any weak lambs in a sheltered, warm area.
Using overhead, infra-red heat lamps will help give any weak lambs a boost.
Before turning the ewe and lambs out a good check list to run through is as follows:
- Has the lamb suckled?
- Has the lamb had enough colostrum?
- Has the naval been treated? If possible, twice
- Has the naval healed? Is it dry?
- Have the ewe and lamb/s bonded?
- Has the lamb been tagged/ spray marked?
- Has the lamb been docked and/or castrated?
Following a routine during the lambing season will help to make sure that nothing is missed when everything gets hectic, as it can do during the lambing season. Hopefully following these tips will help ensure that your lambs are as fit and healthy as they can be and you have a successful lambing season.
For more information on the products featured in this article, or any other products that you may be interested in, please contact Lillico’s Country Store on 01622 718062 or Attlee’s Country Store on 01306 884289.