Building up to lambing time

It’s beginning to look a lot like….lambing time. Well, we’re getting there anyway.

After a flurry of caesarians around Christmas time in pedigree ewes, we’re now on the build up to the main lambing, which is a busy time for all sheep farmers and vets.

Many people have now scanned their ewes and the results seem to be as good, if not better, than normal. We advise giving ewes (and tups, breeding hoggs, etc.) fluke treatment while they are in for scanning. Where Tick Borne Fever causing abortion is a problem, we recommend pour-ons against ticks.

There are several reasons for scanning sheep, but the main two are:

1. To pick up problems resulting in empty ewes early on. If more than two per cent of scanned ewes are empty, we recommend blood sampling six to eight for Toxoplasma infection (subsidised by a drug company) and trace element deficiencies. Leaving tests until after lambing means the results will less accurately show what was happening at the time of abortion or failed conception.

2. To allow separation of ewes so that they can be fed for the number of lambs they are carrying. This will prevent single-bearing ewes becoming fat, and triplet or quad-bearing ewes succumbing to Twin Lamb disease or producing poor-quality colostrum. Any ewes that are underweight should be moved up a group to allow increased feeding.

Usually the next time ewes are handled is for vaccination four to six weeks pre-lambing against clostridial diseases. For outdoor lambing flocks, long-acting wormer is sometimes given, but this is best done as close to lambing time as possible as this is when the ewe’s immune system is at its poorest.

Increasingly, we are blood testing 20 ewes in each flock. Samples are checked three to four weeks pre-lambing for energy, protein and mineral levels, and as the results are available within 48 hours, it’s soon enough to make changes to diet if necessary, before problems occur.

For newcomers to sheep farming we are running our one-day lambing course on February 29 and March 1, from 10am to 3pm, in Rothbury. This consists of lectures and a practical session, including stomach tubing lambs, castrating, de-tailing, condition scoring, using a lambing simulator and, hopefully, some live lambing action. The cost is £50. If you are interested, call 01668 281323.