Alnorthumbria Veterinary Group: Spring peak time for lambing and calving

With the Christmas festivities well behind us, now is the time to look forward to spring, in farming and veterinary minds this means a peak of calving and lambing work Andrew Sawyer.

Friday, 24th January 2020, 4:00 pm

Planning is vital to minimise losses and work, and to maximise output, so for spring calving cows, most of which have been pregnancy tested and treated for fluke by now, they need to be prepared for calving.

The cow condition wants to be correct at least two months before they are due and then the cows should be maintained until this time. Trying to feed up thin cows late in pregnancy often leads to bigger calves rather than fatter cows. Thinning down fat cows can lead to less colostrum production. After getting a live calf born the most important thing for its survival is getting enough good quality colostrum as quickly as possible. Vaccination of the cows with Rotavec Corona three weeks before calving will improve the protection the calf receives against diseases causing diarrhoea. The mineral status of the cow is important as low levels of selenium, iodine and vitamins can lead to weaker calves born and, therefore, more calving problems and retained cleansings. There are a variety of ways to ensure adequate mineral levels. For most cows, minerals in the feed is the best and cheapest option, but there are boluses and now also a new injection - Multimin, which can be used instead or as well. The environment calves are born into is also very important and ensuring you have plenty of the best bedding available at this crucial time is certainly beneficial in the long run.

Some pedigree sheep have started to lamb now but most flocks in this area lamb in March, April or May. The basic requirements of any system are the same. Knowing the number of lambs a ewe is carrying by scanning, aids in rationing feed and the management of the ewes. As with cows the condition of the pregnant ewe is very important. Thinner ewes tend to lamb more easily but they need to produce quality colostrum and if suckling multiple lambs they may struggle to feed them. So ewes need to be in a reasonable condition, with the correct diet, in the lead up to lambing.

Edinburgh University provide a service analysing the minerals, energy and protein status of ewes three weeks prior to lambing which is a cost effective way of making sure the nutrition is correct. Contact Alnorthumbria vets for more details. In this area, after scanning, a lot of flocks need treatment for fluke and a worming plan needs to be devised. Ewes that are in poorer condition lose their resistance to worms around lambing so treating at this time of year can lead to less worm eggs on pasture and less parasites in the lamb crop. Care must be taken with the use of any wormer to try and limit the build-up of resistance.

Vaccinations against clostridia and pasteurella should be boosted prior to lambing and there are a variety of vaccine protocols. Most use Heptavac P Plus four weeks prior to lambing but some flocks use Covexin 8 and others need a broader clostridial cover and use Bravoxin 10 plus Ovipast for pasteurella.

Lambing later outside often reduces disease but for the lambs born earlier inside hygiene is vital to limit conditions such as watery mouth, navel ill and joint ill. Clean bedding and disinfection plus the use of Stalosan is very important. Last year was a dry spring so there was less disease and coupled with the concern about antibiotic resistance much less was used. Hopefully this year will be the same but farmers must be aware that conditions can change quickly, even with forward planning. Please contact Alnorthumbria Vets if problems start to occur.