NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

TO­DAY’S SHEEP are Fer­raris com­pared to the Model Ts of a few decades ago. Most will pro­duce mul­ti­ple lambs so you need to be pre­pared and the place you al­ways start is with their feed­ing. To­day’s flocks should pro­duce at least 120 lambs weaned for ev­ery 100 ewes to the ram, re­gard­less of breed. If not, get help to find out why.

Ewes should have been in good con­di­tion at mat­ing and never al­lowed to run short of feed dur­ing preg­nancy. In the last 4-6 weeks be­fore lamb­ing they should have been fed some high-energy con­cen­trates to make sure mul­ti­ple lambs are at least 4.7kg, the op­ti­mum birth weight for good sur­vival.

The trou­ble on too many small farms, where rams of­ten run with ewes all the time, is that you never know when lambs will ap­pear so they are born un­no­ticed, ne­glected and die.

If lamb­ing ewes is a new ex­pe­ri­ence, don’t hes­i­tate to get help from a neigh­bour to see what prod­ucts and gear you need, what vac­ci­na­tions the ewes should have and what the lambs may need af­ter birth. Vet clin­ics will also pro­vide this help and how to safely store an­i­mal health prod­ucts.

To­gether, wet and cold will kill new­born lambs fast, so some shel­ter is the first pri­or­ity, ei­ther sheds or sim­ple shel­ters in the pad­dock. Woolen or plas­tic cov­ers for all mul­ti­ple and small lambs are a good in­vest­ment, and an old elec­tric blan­ket is a top idea for hy­pother­mic lambs that need re­viv­ing, as it pro­vides a nice con­stant heat.

Check with your vet about flock vac­ci­na­tions, what to give and when. Even if ewes have been vac­ci­nated be­fore lamb­ing, check if you need to give lambs a booster at dock­ing. Pulpy kid­ney and tetanus are the main con­cerns - the for­mer al­ways seems to kill the big­gest lambs - and you may also need to ask about scabby mouth (which hu­mans can pick up) and vac­ci­nate for that too.

Keep­ing ba­sic records is im­por­tant. Tag ewes to show their age group. You can then record ewes for culling that have had lamb­ing prob­lems, ud­der prob­lems, ones which have only had sin­gles, or that did not rear a lamb to wean­ing.

Many farm­ers now let ewes rear triplets, but if you want to get lambs off early, it’s bet­ter to re­move a triplet and hand-feed it, and cer­tainly

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