How to reduce lamb mortality
This year lambs will be worth so much that any extra work to reduce deaths around birth will be very worthwhile. Even in good weather, perinatal lamb mortality in the first three days after birth is regularly around 15 to 20 per cent.
In a snowstorm all lambs born in a day can die.
Finding dead lambs is extremely depressing and heaped for slink skin collection is even worse.
Here are some points which can help to reduce losses.
Scanning ewes at 80 to 90 days will identify those carrying multiple lambs which can then be given the best feed.
To reduce mis-mothering get lambing ewes used to being disturbed by shepherds, bikes, dogs before lambing.
Don’t lamb on steep hills; newborn lambs can rapidly slide away from their dams who will often not retrieve them.
Provide undisturbed space for ewes to lamb.
Don’t drive newly-lambed ewes and lambs into a fresh paddock on the day they lambed. They are best left on their birth sites where the smell of their burst waters remains for at least a day or until they are ready to move away with their lambs.
Provide temporary shelter with hay or straw bales. If the ground in popular spots gets dirty, fence them off so ewes will find clean areas to lamb.
Build a zigzag temporary fence to restrict mobility of ewes and lambs in the first day after lambing. Use hay bales for this, which will also provide shelter.
In storms shelter newly-lambed ewes. Put covers on all lambs at birth in wet cold weather.
Code-mark multiple lambs at birth with raddle, to remind you which they are and which ewe they belong to.
Check correct mothering-up during the day and at dusk. If a lamb doesn’t have a full tummy find out why and give it a feed.
Keeping a starved lamb in an old electric blanket is better than dunking it in warm water.
Lambs must have colostrum within an hour of birth to increase their chances of survival.
Store some spare ewes’ colostrum for this or use cow colostrum. There are also some good substitutes on the market.
Be prepared to foster spare lambs or rear them artificially. You will need to get the appropriate facilities organised for this well before lambing.
Check for cast ewes and lambs and check for lambs with stuck-down tails, which happens a lot in dry, windy weather.
Get the vet to deal with any ewes with bearings. Don’t delay in getting experienced help with lambing problems.
Check with your vet about the flock’s mineral status before lambing, in case supplementation is needed. It takes time to build up mineral reserves, like charging a battery.
Select replacement females from ewes that rear lambs to weaning. Good mothering is a genetic trait.
Worthwhile: Taking care of newborn lambs is vital in their first few days of life.