Dealing with lambing conditions
A fortnight from now, lambing will be in full swing. At the moment, we are making the final preparations to ensure everything will go as smoothly as possible.
With the use of synchronised breeding we could see as many as 50-60 ewes lambing in a 24-hour period, so advanced preparation is necessary. In addition, there are a number of experiments taking place this year under the guidance of masters students Kevin McDermott and Cormac Ryan. The experiments will add greatly to the workload and see second-year agricultural science students from Belfield help out.
At the time of writing, the twin-bearing ewes are receiving 500g/day of concentrates, with the singles on 350g and the triplets at 900g/day. Up to about 16 days before lambing the ewes receive a 14pc crude protein ration that is a three-way coarse mix of barley, citrus pulp and distillers. This is then raised to 18pc through the addition of some soya-bean meal for the final stages of pregnancy.
A number of different conditions can arise in late pregnancy which are largely or partially linked to how the ewe is being fed. Treatment can be difficult and there will be an impact on the ewe's future performance and whether or not she remains in the flock. These conditions or diseases include, but are not exclusive to, twin-lamb disease, acidosis and prolapse.
Twin-lamb disease is linked to a glucose deficiency and is similar to the condition of ketosis which occurs in dairy cows.
In essence, demands placed on the ewe for energy are greater than what her diet is supplying. She then needs to mobilise her body reserves to make up the shortfall. When body reserve, or fat, mobilisation is excessive, ketones (a by-product of fat mobilisation) build up in the bloodstream. This gives rise to symptoms including (but not restricted to) depression, apparent blindness and muscle tremors.
Treatment is very difficult as the ewe's energy demand continues to increase and her intake drops dramatically.
Prevention is much the better option.