Colostrum vital for lamb energy

Dr Tommy Boland

Supplying energy is the first function of colostrum.

When the lamb is born, it has limited energy reserves which are very quickly used up.

Once these energy reserves are depleted, the lamb will require colostrum quickly to supply energy.

Small lambs and lambs which are not licked dry by the mother are most likely to suffer from hypothermia, in addition to those lambed outdoors, particularly in wet conditions.

The efficiency of the utilisation of this energy will also depend on maternal selenium status.

If the ewe does not receive sufficient selenium supplementation in late pregnancy, the lamb will be less able to generate its own heat.

Lambs should receive approximately 50ml of colostrum per kg lamb bodyweight four times in the first 24 hours of life; or approximately one litre in the first day of life for a 5kg lamb.

Colostrum consumption as early as possible is crucial for lamb survival. The key to ensuring adequate colostrum intake is to have the ewe producing plenty of colostrum and observing the lamb to make sure he can suckle.

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This can be assisted by removing the wax seal, individually penning ewes after lambing, and stomach tubing any lambs that are not suckling.

As stated above, nutrition before lambing is crucial to ensure adequate colostrum supply. There will, however, be some ewes that are inherently poor at producing colostrum, even when they are apparently fed correctly.

These ewes should be culled and care taken not to retain their lambs as replacements.

Irish Independent

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