How to re­duce lamb mor­tal­ity

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery - By DR CLIVE DAL­TON

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.

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