Getting the ewe into fit condition
- Monitor Body Condition Score (BCS).
Lowland ewes should reach a BCS of 2.5-3 and hill ewes 2-2.5 eight weeks before lambing and maintain it throughout.
Fat ewes are at risk of having dystocia and prolapse whilst too thin ewes are likely to have small sized lambs and insufficient milk.
- Appropriate and accurate nutrition
70% of foetal growth occurs during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy resulting in a rapid increase in energy and nutritional requirement in ord
er to avoid conditions such as twin lamb and hypocalcemia. Energy dense feed is required due to the growing foetus reducing rumen size and consequently reducing voluntary feed intake.
For treatment of twin lamb, a dose of 45ml Wynnstay Maxi Twin will provide the ewe with the energy she requires quickly and show an improvement within hours.
For treatments of hypocalcaemia, inject with combined calcium and magnesium dextrose under the skin e.g. Calciject No. 6.
Correct stocking rate will also help reduce metabolic disorders due to fair allocation of concentrate and unlimited access to forage.
|Floor space requirement for housed pregnant ewes||Floor space|
|Lowland ewes (60-90KG live weight)||1.2m-1.4m squared/ewe|
|Upland ewes (45-6kg live weight)||1.0-1.2m squared/ewe|
|Trough space requirement for housed pregnant ewes||Trough space/ewe|
Separate the flock according to litter size and BCS to meet their feeding needs. Ewes carrying twins will require more energy and nutrition than a single ewe.
- Foot Trimming
It is important to monitor and control foot rot before housing as it can spread easily once inside. Lame ewes will find it harder to maintain BCS as they are not able to graze or eat as easily, impacting lamb weight and milk production.
The lambing shed should be clean, well drained and ventilated with easy access to clean water and feed. An indication of poor ventilation is the presence of many cob webs. If the shed is free from cobwebs, ventilation is adequate.
Individual pens should be a minimum size of 1m x 2m with clean bedding (Lamlac, 2017).
Putting lime at the bottom of pens will help keep them dry and minimise diseases (Lamlac, 2017).
Keeping records in recording books or on white boards of what day a lamb was born, how individual animals have been treated, any issues with an individual animal and what actions need to be taken is very useful, especially when workers are changing shifts.
Any ewes that propose problems or issues during lambing e.g. prolapse, insufficient or poor quality milk, failure to bond with lamb, poor feet, take a note or mark her and the lamb to ensure that no breeding ewes are kept from here in an attempt to eliminate/reduce lambing issues.
The Best Start
- Within 15 minutes of birth or as soon as possible, dip the lamb’s navel in iodine to prevent bacteria from entering the body and causing infections.
- Check the ewe’s udder. Ensure that she has enough milk to mother all lambs and has no mastitis. Ewes with mastitis should be separated from their lambs as puss from the udder could potentially poison the lambs if left to suckle.
- Check that the ewe is licking her lamb and bonding. Lambs that are not licked are at a grater risk of developing hyperthermia as they have a large surface are to body weight meaning that they loose heat quickly and use their energy supply to keep warm rather than get up to suckle.
- Human interference should be avoided unless the lamb has not been suckling within the first 1-2 hours. If a lamb’s stomach feels empty and its nose is cold, this will help indicate that it has not been suckling. They can either be assisted to suckle the ewe’s teat, bottle fed or tube fed (although tube feeding should be the last resort).
- When tube feeding, it is vital that the tube goes down the right hole into the stomach and not into the lungs and drown the lamb. This can be achieved by holding the lambs head up and back which should stimulate the hole into the lungs to close and allow the tube down into the stomach. If you can here the lamb breathing through the tube, this shows that the tube is incorrectly placed in the lungs and should be removed.
- If a lamb’s hunched back and has wrinkled skin when standing, this suggests that it has not received sufficient milk and interference is necessary.
- Avoid keeping fit and healthy lambs inside for more than 48 hours post lambing as is increases the risk of diseases.
- Lambs are born with no present antibodies leaving them vulnerable to diseases and hypothermia. Feed colostrum as soon as possible as the gut wall is most permeable during the first 6 hours of life enabling more antibodies to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
- As a guide, feed 50ml/kg live weight of colostrum per feed and a minimum of 200ml/kg live weight within the first 24 hours.
- Colostrum can be frozen for use later when supply is low or is of poor quality.
- Always defrost at a temperature below 45 ̊C as boiling or microwaving it will destroy the antibodies and reduce its effectiveness. This should also be remembered when feeding. It should be warmed gradually in a bowl of warm water and fed warm at 39 ̊C.
- Whilst ewe colostrum is preferred, high quality alternative such as Wynnstay Lambcol Gold Colostrum can be as effective.
Rearing orphan lambs
- Which lamb to foster? When an ewe has triplets, the recommended option would be to choose the odd lamb; the small one or the largest one so that the ewe is left with a balanced pair. Consider your target market; whether you’re selling ewe lambs or tup lambs for breeding, leave the highest priority lambs with their mother (Lamlac, 2017).
- Good hygiene is essential. All feeding equipment should be cleaned daily and disinfected every week, especially bottles and ad lib feeders as diseases spread faster through shared teats.
- At approximately one week of age, offer ad-lib creep feed and fresh straw in racks to provide sharp fibre to encourage rumen development (Lamlac, 2017).
- In order to avoid possible digestive upsets, wean abruptly at approximately five weeks. These are the weaning guidelines: Wean at a minimum of 2.5 times their birth weight (8 – 10kg). Wean at a minimum of 35 days old and eating approximately 250g solid feed daily (Lamlac, 2017).
- To avoid growth check due to diet change, keep the lambs inside throughout rearing and finishing phases. This will also reduce potential worm challenge that would occur at grass.
If you have any questions regarding lambing or would like to speak to a member of our Animal Health Team, click here to find your local specialist.