First 48 hours are crit­i­cal for sur­vival

Irish Independent - Farming - - Lambing -

1. Still­births Lamb mor­tal­ity can be un­ac­cept­ably high in the first two weeks of life, with the ma­jor­ity of deaths oc­cur­ring in the first 48 hours. A tar­get for you should be to keep mor­tal­ity, in­clud­ing still births, to be­low 8pc.

There can some­times be an ac­cep­tance that lamb mor­tal­ity is a part of sheep farm­ing, but these should be min­imised. While we may not like to ad­mit it, the shepherd is the big­gest f ac t or in­flu­enc­ing lamb mor­tal­ity in the Ir­ish con­text.

If a lot of small lambs are born, it points to in­ad­e­quate en­ergy nu­tri­tion of the ewe. If large lambs are born but the ewes have no colostrum it points to in­ad­e­quate protein nu­tri­tion.

A lamb birth weight of 5-6kg should be the tar­get, al­though an al­lowance up to 7kg for sin­gles is ok where there is good su­per­vi­sion avail­able.

With triplets it is rel­a­tively easy to achieve an aver­age lamb birth weight of at least 4.5kg. 2. Hy­pother­mia star­va­tion The big­gest killers of new­born lambs are hy­pother­mia, s t ar vati on and di s ease. Ob­vi­ously, lamb­ing con­di­tions will also have an ef­fect.

Hy­pother­mia will be a higher risk fac tor i n an out­door en­vi­ron­ment. Dis­ease will most likely present more of a chal­lenge in­doors, and star­va­tion can oc­cur across the board.

Star­va­tion and hy­pother­mia will kill the lamb long be­fore dis­ease will get the op­por­tu­nity to do so. When the lamb is born it has ver y limited en­erg y re­serves.

In or­der t o uti l i s e t hese en­ergy re­serves to gen­er­ate heat, the ewe must re­ceive ad­e­quate se­le­nium sup­ple­men­ta­tion dur­ing preg­nancy. If se­le­nium lev­els are in­ad­e­quate the new­born lamb will have a re­duced abil­ity to keep it­self warm, in­creas­ing the chances of hy­pother­mia.

Re­cent work from New Zealand points to t he im­por­tance of this is­sue in out­door lamb­ing. This is due to the fact that grass con­tains high lev­els of polyun­sat­u­rated fatty acids which in­crease t he se­le­nium re­quire­ment.

Hun­gry lambs are easy to iden­tify but can cause a ma­jor headache at lamb­ing time. In most in­stances, the new­born lamb is en­thu­si­as­tic in search­ing for the teat. If this is un­suc­cess­ful the lamb quickly be­comes weak and is in­ca­pable of mak­ing much ef­for t to suckle.

These lambs will be­come gaunt, hol­low and stand with a hunched ap­pear­ance. It will take two to three days for these lambs to die. This means that t here should be am­ple op­por­tu­nity to de­tect and treat at risk lambs.

How­ever, the win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to rem­edy this sit­u­a­tion is short­ened in cold, draughty or wet con­di­tions. A quick post-mortem ex­am­i­na­tion will con­firm any sus­pi­cions you

and may have that a lamb died from hunger.

The key are the kid­neys. If these are not sur­rounded by fat it is most likely death due to star­va­tion. Hunger is there­fore of ten com­bined with hy­pother­mia.

Be­tween 37-39C we re­fer to the lamb as be­ing mod­er­ately hy­pother­mic, and this is quite easy to cor­rect at this stage. Be­low 37C, the lamb is said to be se­verely hy­pother­mic and is more dif­fi­cult to treat. So it goes with­out say­ing that the ear­lier you can ac t, the bet­ter the out­come.

Treat­ment of the mod­er­ately hy­pother­mic lamb in­cludes dry­ing the lamb if it is wet, feed­ing colostrum by stomach tube and mov­ing the ewe plus lamb(s) to a shel­tered en­vi­ron­ment.

The use of ar­ti­fi­cial heat and sep­a­ra­tion of the lamb from its mother is usu­ally un­nec­es­sary. In fact, if the lat­ter hap­pens it may well up­set the bond be­tween the ewe and lamb.

The lamb also be­comes de­fi­cient in glu­cose if it be­comes se­verely hy­pother­mic af­ter the f i r s t f i ve hours of i t s l i f e. Re­search sug­gests that death from cere­bral hy­po­gly­caemia (glu­cose de­fi­ciency in the brain) is still likely even if the lamb is warmed up from this state.

The glu­cose de­fi­ciency needs to be cor­rected by the ad­min­is­tra­tion of an in­traperi­toneal glu­cose in­jec­tion. This in­volves the in­jec­tion of a 20pc warm glu­cose so­lu­tion i nto t he ab­domen of the lamb at a rate of 10ml/kg lamb birth weight.

The in­jec­tion site should be ap­prox­i­mately 1 cm to the side of the navel and 2 cm be­hind the line of the navel. When hold­ing the lamb by the front legs the in­jec­tion should be ad­min­is­tered at a 45 de­gree an­gle, al­most aim­ing for the tail head of the lamb.

A 19 gauge one inch nee­dle is used. Then you can warm the lamb, which re­quires the use of ar­ti­fi­cial heat. A red lamp is of­ten the best op­tion as it can al­low the lamb to re­main with the ewe and pre­serve the bond. 3. Dis­ease Lambs which are hun­gry are also more likely to suf­fer from dis­ease. Colostrum is also re­quired to pre­vent dis­ease in early life. It con­tains spe­cial pro­teins known as an­ti­bod­ies which help the lamb to fight off dis­ease.

If the lamb re­ceives ad­e­quate colostrum then he should be im­mune to all the in­fec­tious dis­eases that the e we was ex­posed to, with the ex­cep­tion of orf.

En­sur­ing ad­e­quate colostrum sup­ply is the best way to en­sure the lamb re­ceives im­mu­nity. A lamb will re­quire ap­prox­i­mately 1 litre of colostrum in the first 24 hours of life. For a twin-bear­ing ewe she must pro­duce two litres over 24 hours.

She should also have ap­prox­i­mately half a litre avail­able at bi r t h. The earl i er lambs con­sume colostrum the less likely they are to suf­fer dis­ease.

E coli (wa­tery mouth/rat­tle belly) and joint ill are as­so­ci­ated with less than op­ti­mum hy­giene around lamb­ing time or in­ap­pro­pri­ate han­dling of the lamb.

Both can be largely coun­tered by en­sur­ing a clean en­vi­ron­ment at lamb­ing and ad­e­quate colostrum sup­ply. The E coli chal­lenge can build up as lamb­ing pro­gresses, es­pe­cially where bed­ding be­comes wet. New­born lambs will in­evitably in­gest some E coli but ad­e­quate colostrum al­lows them to fight off this chal­lenge.

If E coli is a prob­lem on your farm, stomach tub­ing the lamb with 30ml of nat­u­ral yo­ghurt at 24 hours of age can help to pre­vent scour.

Re­search in Bri­tain shows the yo­ghurt helps to acid­ify the stomach con­tents and re­duces the risk of scour. If you don’t have an E coli prob­lem this is un­nec­es­sary.

Any pen where a lamb has de­vel­oped, or died from, E coli must be cleaned and dis­in­fected be­fore re­use.

For many years we had a se­vere joint ill prob­lem at Lyons. Re­cently we have ad­dressed and greatly re­duced this prob­lem. The sin­gle big­gest change we made is to re­duce the han­dling of the lamb when it’s wet.

This has made our re­search more dif­fi­cult but re­duced the op­por­tu­nity of trans­fer­ring dis­ease to the lamb. The sav­ings are cer­tainly worth it.

Hy­giene has also been im­proved. Dis­pos­able gloves are worn at all times when as­sist­ing birth and han­dling new­born lambs.

Gloves are changed be­tween ewes and any­body han­dling new­born lambs is re­quired to wear a dis­pos­able apron and change this be­tween lambs.

TAR­GETS: A lamb birth weight of 5-6kg should be the tar­get for farm­ers, al­though an al­lowance up to 7kg for sin­gles is ok where there is good su­per­vi­sion avail­able to help stave off mor­tal­ity at lamb­ing

PRO­TEC­TION: A ewe and her twin lambs en­rolled in a colostrum pro­duc­tion study at UCD’s Lyons re­search farm

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