How to keep your flock thriving and healthy
This spring has been benign compared to last year, but farmers still need to be vigilant about disease, writes Eamon O'Connell
What a difference a year makes. The weather is ideal, soil temperatures are on the rise and grass is becoming plentiful.
After a better than average lambing season on most farms with a decent crop of healthy lambs, ewes and lambs are now permanently out at pasture. The fodder shortage and the generally horrible spring of 2018 are a distant memory.
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However, we are still seeing levels of sickness in flocks. As I treated a lamb with pneumonia last week, the farmer said to me jokingly: "I wonder why I called you at all; sure a sick sheep is usually a dead sheep".
With morbidity so close to mortality in sheep, there are a number of areas to focus on to keep the flock healthy and thriving this spring.
This is a severe disease of lambs six to 12 weeks old and is characterised by diarrhoea, dehydration and weight loss. Lambs become infected by ingesting large numbers of larvae on contaminated pasture.
Nematodirus is different to other worms in that it takes almost a year for eggs to hatch, releasing infective larvae. When soil temperatures increase after cold weather, there is mass hatching of eggs.
The Department of Agriculture issued a nematodirus forecast which predicted peak hatching to occur in the last week of March on the south-west and west coast, and into the first two weeks of April for the rest of the country. This is up to three weeks earlier than last year.
This year, lambs should be already treated last week in the south west and west. Lambs in the rest of the country should be treated this week. Benzimidazoles (white drenches) are the treatment of choice.