Lower body condition scores result in easy care lambing

Andrew Kinsella

Never before did lambing take place while the sun was cracking the ground. Lambing does not get any easier with age and I can never say that it is a good experience, but all in all it went well this year.

Two hundred and sixty ewes went to the ram and 80pc lambed in the 14-day period from March 15-28. I never achieved such a compact lambing before.

Ninety ewes were scanned for three or more lambs, so we took a conscious decision to change our system of rearing triplets. For the past 15 years we have had 50-60 ewes going to grass with three lambs. While this system worked reasonably well, there were a number of disadvantages.

Management was geared to having these pregnant animals in very good condition at lambing (condition score 3.5) in order to maximise lamb birthweight and to enable ewes to milk off their backs on turn-out. But ewes lambed down in exceptionally good body condition last year, which resulted in a lot of difficult lambings, mal- and breech-presentations with only a protruding tail to indicate that the ewe was lambing.

There were also a higher incidence of vaginal prolapses and a few cases of intestinal prolapses.

This year, as the triplet lambs were going to be artificially reared, ewe condition was allowed drop to condition score 3 and we encountered very few problems. It was very much the definition of easy-care lambing. The other problem with the old system was that ewes with triplets ended up occupying the individual lambing pens for far too long, particularly if there were two large and one small lamb. On let-out, triplet-rearing ewes had to be treated as a separate group. Ewes had to be fed meals morning and evening irrespective of weather conditions for 5-6 weeks. On average, 4-5 ewes in this group developed mastitis or sore teats (probably from excessive suckling) and had to be brought back to the shed for treatment. This extra group made grazing management more complicated.

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