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  • Writer's pictureAlice Salter

Get ready for Lambing 2023


· Pregnant ewe nutrition

Ensuring a pregnant ewes nutritional needs are met is key to ensure optimal lamb growth and colostrum production. 70% of foetal lamb growth takes place during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, therefore they must be in prime condition. Get it wrong and you risk poor lamb survival rates, low birth weights and inferior quality ewe colostrum. The easiest way to do this is to group and feed ewes according to your scanning results and their condition score. Getting the mineral balance right is important too, so ask your nutritionist for advice. Some people may choose to go that bit further and ask their vet to take blood samples from ewes 4-6 weeks pre-lambing just to make sure their diet is delivering the required energy and protein status. Not only is this good practice to ensure nutrition rates are correct but with the current feed prices being so high ensuring you are feeding the right amount can mean less feed, saving the pennies!

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· Prepare your housing

Sheds used for indoor lambing should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected

before ewes are brought inside, which should be at least 2 weeks prior to

your earliest estimated lambing date. Using plenty of clean, dry bedding will

help to reduce the risk of spreading lameness and other infections such as

watery mouth, joint ill and coccidiosis. Good lighting is important too making

checking stock much easier, avoiding any unnecessary disturbance. To avoid overcrowding remember: a typical 70kg ewe needs 1.2m2 to 1.4m2 of floor space and 45cm of trough space.

· Plan your flock health

Talk to your vet about the essential disease management interventions pre- and post-lambing. Make sure any lame sheep are separated and treated well before housing. Ensure you know all protocols for dealing with any abortion problems, scours or joint ill.

· Decide on required staffing levels

An extra pair of hands during lambing time can be invaluable. Many rely on students to help out, but it’s important to evaluate your flocks own needs and not over staff. Given the current pandemic relating to Coronavirus it is important to take this into account, especially any workplace safety measures you may need to arrange. Experience and knowledge varies hugely across students, therefore it is important to make clear what you are looking for. Any new staff recruited need to know what is expected from them from the start and should be given clear management protocols so that they know exactly what to do in any given situation.

· Have a system for rearing orphaned lambs

New trial work has clearly shown that surplus lambs can be reared successfully away from the ewe. Ad lib ewe milk replacer feeding systems will help you save labour and secure better lamb growth rates.

· Stock up!

Stock up with the equipment and supplies you’ll need. Lambing is always hectic and once the season starts you won’t have the time to keeping dashing out for essential kit. Key pre lambing stock up list: disinfectant for lambing pens; iodine for navels; castration rings; feeding tubes; marker sprays; sterilisation equipment; milk replacer; colostrum replacer. Given the current concerns surrounding supply of iodine you might need to look into alternatives, although these are limited and with limited studies to show effectivenes. Therefore key things to remember are ensuring there is adeaquate dry bedding, disinfecting lambing pens between uses and letting dry, and making sure they get plenty of the all important colostrum!


· Targets

Set targets for reducing lamb losses. Good records are essential to benchmark performance and to help you identify any potential problem areas for future seasons. Your recording system doesn’t have to be sophisticated or complicated – most importantly it needs to be consistent. You should be aiming for less than 15% lamb losses, but top performing flocks are achieving closer to 10%. Given the lack of grazing last year pre tupping many farms are reporting much lower lambing percentages this year, mainly associated with both the rams and ewes conditions prior and being unable to properly flush the ewes before rams going in.

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