Farm Ireland

Thursday 29 June 2017

Stock up on cow colostrum to give lambs an extra boost

Lambing season is on the way.
Lambing season is on the way.
John Fagan

John Fagan

It's hard to believe that another lambing season is about to kick off.

You have got to get prepared for this, because when it really starts you just have to be in situ supervising the ewes night and day.

Preparation is key. I have plenty of gloves, lambing gel, tail rings, lambing stomach tubes and iodine all ready to roll.

I also talk nicely to a local dairy farmer and he gives me some cow colostrum, which I find great for giving a lamb a little boost.

I have made the decision this year to castrate all lambs. It removes the ram taint from the taste of the meat and makes finishing them easier and cheaper at the end of the season.

I got fertiliser and slurry out and the lambing paddocks that have been closed off since last October are looking good to go.

The meal that I have been feeding is a high soya-based 21pc ration. I cannot emphasise more how important this is. You need to have milk in your ewes at lambing time, otherwise you are running yourself into trouble and soya is the key ingredient needed to make this happen

A ewe with plenty of colostrum is crucial for protecting the lamb from illness. After a lamb is born it has no immunity whatsoever and is depending on its mother for this. This is passed on in the ewe's milk.

A lamb who fails to get this milk will more than likely perish.

Have lamb stomach tubes ready and available. It's no harm to soften the stomach tube in hot water before tubing the lamb.

Obviously, it is also important to keep the tubes clean. I keep them in a jug of Milton solution that is used to clean baby bottles.

It's cheap and effective.

Lambing is tough work - it's both physically and mentally challenging and the key to making it successful is to be prepared.

Focus on what you can control and don't get upset about the things you can't control.

The weather and lamb mortality are part and parcel of lambing. You have to take this on the chin and remember that no one gets 100pc.

The things that have given me trouble over the years have been the build-up of infection in the shed.

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing perfectly healthy lambs die because of some silly infection that they pick up - like watery mouth or joint ill.

You've got to lime the bedding area the ewes are on, you have to lime the lambing pens after each ewe, and you have to thoroughly bathe the lamb's navel with iodine immediately after birth.

You may even have to give a lamb an antibiotic if there is suddenly an infection problem - but talk to your vet about this.


I have had to do this before and it stopped an outbreak of watery mouth and joint ill in its tracks. If the weather takes a turn for the worse and you have ewes and lambs outside, don't panic. A good tip is to scatter straw bales or farm machinery around the field and lambs can snuggle in and get protection from the elements.

They're happier outside; they just need shelter when the weather gets rough.

Another tip that I find good is to notch on the ear sheep that give trouble at lambing.

For example, a ewe that aborts, prolapses, has little or no milk or is a bad mother. There is no point in keeping her.

I have found that spray- marking them is pointless, as it usually gets rubbed off and the same ewe can end up back in the flock the following year giving the same problems.

The ear notch is the best way to identify these sheep later in the season when it's time to cull them.

Finally, for a successful lambing season, cleanliness is key.

It doesn't take a lot of effort; it just takes being prepared, knowing what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Best of luck.

John Fagan is a sheep farmer from Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath.

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