Sheep: Hygiene the priority in early weeks of lambing
Published 02/03/2016 | 02:30
It's been a busy start to this year's lambing - the Bluefaced Leicester ewes have lambed as have some ewes that I sponged after they missed last year. They brought several sets of triplets and even a set of quadruplets and very few ewes to adopt lambs onto.
The extra lambs were adopted where possible and the remaining lambs are now on an automatic milk feeder.
I find that it's quite easy to get the lambs drinking from the feeder if they haven't spent too many days with the ewe. The older lambs take a while to adapt to the feeder as they get used to suckling the ewe. Persistence and patience are key to feeding lambs artificially. I hang an infra-red lamp over the lambs for the first few days which I think helps with comfort. Time is needed to feed and clean the equipment and to ensure lambs don't get digestive upsets.
Once the lambs are two to three weeks old I will introduce a small amount of cooked ration and fresh water and some hay.
This is all to help rumen development and get lambs eating solid feed as quickly as possible. Lambs are bedded with straw on a regular basis to keep them dry and clean.
I like to lamb the Pedigree Bluefaced Leicester ewes a few weeks ahead of the main flock to make sure they get off to a good start before the main flock start lambing.
The Blue ewes lambed quite well with healthy strong lambs and they have plenty of milk.
With the poor weather conditions to date the ewes and lambs have been kept in until ground dries up and they will then move to the sheltered fields that I have designated for them.
Hygiene is very important for both ewes and lambs that are kept in for a period, especially as the lambing season progresses. Usually at the start of lambing there is very little problem with scours or infections. Problems such as watery mouth, mastitis, scours etc begin as more and more ewes lamb.
Keeping the sheds clean and well bedded is important as is ensuring the lambs get colostrum with antibodies from the ewe.
If the immune system of both the ewe and lamb is strong and the sheds are kept clean, problems should be kept to a minimum.
But as all farmers know, time is a big problem especially around lambing. I try to work to a simple routine. Spending some time cleaning and organising can prevent more problems and save time treating sick lambs and ewes.
I'm happy with the Bluefaced Leicester lambs so far. The different rams that were used have delivered some quality lambs.
I'm hopeful that these new bloodlines will leave a lasting impression on the flock and will also pass their good traits onto Mule lambs.
Time will tell how these will turn out. The repeats of these will start lambing next week.
Ground conditions are still difficult. I managed to spread some fertiliser on some of the saved dry ground. This should give a welcome boost to the grass as temperatures begin to rise and grass starts to grow.
Tom Staunton farms at Tourmakeady, Co Mayo