Top vet's eight essential tips to keep your sheep and lambs right this season


Now is the perfect time to get on top of your flocks health
Now is the perfect time to get on top of your flocks health
Eamonn Connell

Eamon Connell

Eamon O'Connell has eight top tips to keep your sheep and lambs right this season.

1. Have a plan for flock health

After a challenging spring, the outlook has begun to improve. The weather has picked up and hopefully a dramatic improvement in ground conditions and grass availability will follow suit quickly. Lamb and hogget prices continue to rise and now (and some might say, for a change) sheep are a valuable commodity. It is important then, to have a plan in place this spring to maximise flock health.

Read also: Why culling of under-performing ewes is vital for profits for this farmer

2. Get ewe nutrition right

The fodder crisis had a big impact on flocks. Ewes underfed before lambing had the knock-on effect of weak lambs and higher rates of lamb mortality. Ewes in poor condition will need extra concentrate supplementation to ensure they go back in lamb.

3. Clostridial vaccination

There has been an increase this spring in diseases such as pulpy kidney and blackleg this year. Ewes should be vaccinated 2-6 weeks pre-lambing. Lambs need two injections, 4-6 weeks apart. Don't forget the rams.

A good dosing can boost survival rates and lamb vigour

4. Nematodirus

This is a disease that affects grazing lambs at 5-6 weeks of age. Signs include diarrhoea, dullness and a "hunched up" appearance. The most effective way to prevent this is to avoid grazing pasture that was grazed by lambs last year. If this isn't possible, a dosing strategy should be put in place to minimise the effects of this parasite. A cold period followed by warm weather results in an increase in this disease, so it is very important to be vigilant this spring.

5. Stomach worms and fluke

Frequent samples should be taken from different groups to determine what parasites are present and most importantly, if the dosing products used are effective. Resistance is becoming more of an issue every year so having a tailored dosing strategy specific to your flock is very important

Coccidiosis is becoming increasingly more common in lambs every year. Weight loss and diarrhoea are the main signs. This parasite survives in muddy areas of pasture and in dirty houses. A treatment and prevention strategy should be put in place in conjunction with you vet to avoid significant economic loss associated with poor thrive.

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Grass tetany is very prevalent this spring. Magnesium supplementation, either in the form of licks or boluses will prevent losses.

John Fagan: Grass tetany a big danger if we get a sudden burst of growth

6. Orf

Vaccination will protect the flock against orf. Don't forget that orf can be picked up by anyone handling affected sheep resulting in a nasty skin condition. Never handle affected sheep without wearing gloves.

How to reduce disease risks in rapidly expanding flock

7. Minerals and trace elements

Cobalt, copper and Vitamin E and Selenium deficiency are most common. Poor thrive is the most common sign. Blood testing will give an indication of any deficiency and your vet will advise on the best method of supplementation.

8. Health plan

Having a flock health plan in place for the year should result in decreased incidence of disease, increased thrive and fertility and ultimately, a profitable enterprise.

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