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Health issues at lambing

by Frank Hynes

Watery mouth: Watery mouth and / or E. coli scour are diseases associated with lambs receiving insufficient colostrum and poor hygiene. Fresh clean bedding is a must. Cleanings should be removed as quickly as possible.

Naval infections: The freshly broken umbilical cord is wet with blood. Blood is an ideal medium for the multiplication and spread of bacteria. The bacteria gain access to the body via the broken cord lading to infections in many parts of the body. Nave-ill and joint-ill are just two such infections. The naval should be dipped in disinfectant. Tincture of iodine is one of the most reliable products. This both disinfects the navel and dries it out preventing further infection. Dips are generally more successful than sprays.

Coccidiosis: Coccidiosis tends to become a problem from about week three post lambing. If possible late born lambs should not be grazed on pastures that earlier born lambs previously grazed. This is particularly important if there is a long lambing spread.

Hygiene at Lambing: Continue to clean out and disinfect lambing pens after each time they are used. This becomes more important as the season progresses due to the build up of infection. Lime works well to disinfect the pens. Use plenty of straw. Lambs have a much better chance of survival when born into dry, clean conditions. Ewes will lick lambs more vigorously, the lambs will become dry, stand and suck more quickly. While lambs remain wet they are more likely to develop hypothermia.

Colostrum: Lambs should receive 50ml of colostrum per kg body weight in the first hour (250ml for a 5kg lamb). After lambing, check that each ewe has a good supply. If not or if the lamb is unable to suck you should feed the lamb using a stomach tube, preferably with colostrum taken from freshly lambed ewes. A store of this in the freezer would be very useful.