Lambing gets more challenging
At this stage, many of the country's mid-season lambing flocks are well and truly in the middle of the lambing season.
Most farms will have facilities in tip-top shape at the beginning of the season but as lambing progresses, and the work load builds, it becomes harder to keep on top of everything. The aim of the shepherd should be to attempt to save each lamb that will succumb to an avoidable cause. The payback for this is approximately €70 extra per lamb saved.
I frequently have conversations with sheep farmers around lambing time during which the topic of lamb losses almost always comes up. Invariably, the figures often quoted only include lambs born alive which subsequently die.
Abortions, ewes that scanned in lamb but subsequently do not lamb and stillbirths are often not counted. The target for most commercial flocks is to keep all lamb losses below 8pc for low litter flocks (less than 1.4 lambs reared per ewe to the ram). Flocks with higher litter sizes should aim to keep losses below 12pc. Yet I come across flocks ever year that lose 20pc and more.
Documenting/recording the number of losses and the causes of these losses is not only important from a benchmarking point of view but it also identifies areas where improvements need to be made in the future. Unfortunately, this is something which is rarely done on sheep farms.
As the lambing season progresses it becomes more difficult to keep lamb mortality below the targets mentioned here. The reason for this is that disease levels in the lambing area increase as lambing proceeds. Identifying the biggest challenges will allow steps to be taken to reduce the risks.
By and large, most problems in lambing sheds are scours and infections, such as navel and joint ill. The following are some key areas that should be considered when attempting to reduce losses at lambing time: