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Lambing Review

11 May 2021
Type Media Article

By Colm Murray, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc, Galway/Clare


Lambing has finished on farms and now is a good time to look back and review how lambing went, and look at what worked well, and what can be improved. It was a difficult spring with weather conditions poor and very changeable. Another challenge was grass growth due to cold weather which is still an issue. It is important that farmers reflect on the positives and negatives, while it is fresh in their minds. We should look back at key figures like how many ewes went to the ram. The number of ewes scanned and number of empty ewes. Farmers should look at the number of ewes with lambs, and compare it to the number of ewes that went to the ram. A good target is, for example, if 100 hundred ewes went to the ram, 90 ewes should have lambs.


The number of ewes that aborted lambs should be reviewed, if more than 2% of ewes aborted it is considered a problem. Aborted foetuses and placentae’s should be sent to the lab for investigation. Another option is to get your vet to take blood samples from these problem ewes. If abortion is a problem there are vaccines, but they need to be administered, when the ewes are dry before mating. Problem ewes need to be investigated, and thus prevent a major outbreak of abortions incurring big losses.


Another matter which needs reviewing is the number of ewes who prolapsed.   Many farmers have a high tolerance for this and don’t consider it a problem. On farms where this is a problem, farmers should look at their feeding management and trough space. These ewes should be culled after the season, because there is a high chance that they will prolapse next year.

Joint Ill

Another problem that needs investigation, is the number of lambs needing treatment for Joint ill. Farmers need to determine if the causes are due to a hygiene problem, or if it is due to a lack of colostrum at birth. It is important to keep sheds and pens disinfected, and ensure they are bedded with fresh straw to eliminate the cause of infection. Nutrition for the ewes in late pregnancy needs to be sufficient to ensure that they have plenty of high quality colostrum for their lambs.

Twin Lamb Disease

If Twin Lamb Disease is a problem, farmers should review the feeding regime, and if a problem occurred the feeding regime in late pregnancy may need to be tweaked.

Poor Mothering

Farmers should assess the flock and investigate if they have any ewes that are poor mothers, with poor colostrum supply, and unable to feed their lambs.  Ewes with poor mothering capability should be investigated and the root of the problem determined. If no problem is discovered, then these ewes should be culled. Otherwise it increases the number of pet lambs, which makes the operation labour intensive and time consuming.

Other issues

Grass tetany appears to have been a problem in the past week, most likely due to the cold wet weather. Grass tetany is a common disease in lactating ewes, and is caused by a deficiency of magnesium in the blood. It can be acute and fatal disease. Anything that effect grass utilisation can trigger grass tetany. Stress on the ewes can cause this disease. Farmers need to be conscious of rapid growing grass, such as reseeded ground, or land with high potassium levels. These issues effect magnesium uptake for the ewes. This problem can be addressed by feeding ewes with Cal-Mag, included in the concentrates. At this time of the year a popular prevention is provision of lick buckets. Buckets should contain 10 to 12 % magnesium. Three to four buckets should be scattered around the field to help ensure that ewes gain access. There is no guarantee that all ewes will use the lick, so farmers need to be vigilant. Another option is to provide ewes with a bolus of magnesium. On high risk farms the most efficient way to prevent grass tetany is to feed a concentrate with magnesium included.

This disease is acute and sudden, where ewes suddenly become excited with twitching and nervousness and develop staggering and collapse. They regress to convulsions coma and death. Ewes discovered at the early stage can be treated with 100mls of warm Magnesium Sulphate injected under the skin in five to six locations of the body. Early detection may save the ewe.

In conclusion, every season brings new challenges but small improvements can make a big difference and increase profitability.