UK: Lamb losses ‘can be cut’

Colostrum is important, says expert

Colostrum is important, says expert

MANY sheep producers could cut neonatal lamb losses significantly with well-organised lambing routines and better colostrum management, according to a husbandry specialist.

Nia Williams, technical manager with lamb nutrition and sheep husbandry specialist Nettex says with falling lamb prices and potential Schmallenberg virus implications piling even more pressure on beleaguered flockmasters, attention to detail in these crucial areas will be more important than ever this lambing season.

Newborn lambs have limited energy reserves and need rapid access to quality colostrum to survive and thrive, she explained.

“Producers face a battle over the next few weeks and can ill afford to lose any healthy born lambs to the usual causes of lamb deaths in the UK,” she said.

According to research, nearly half of all lamb losses occur during the first 48 hours of life, but many of these could be avoided Nettex maintains.

“The major causes of lamb loss are abortion and stillbirths, congenital defects, predators and misadventure, infectious diseases, and exposure and starvation. But with good stockmanship and best practice routines around lambing, and a clear focus on quality colostrum intake, many producers could save a lot more lambs – particularly those early life losses caused by disease, exposure and starvation,” she said.

“There are three golden rules to colostrum feeding: quality, quantity and quickly,” she said. “Quality depends on the ewe being adequately fed and supplemented in late pregnancy. In terms of quantity, SAC research has shown that for disease prevention lambs need about 60ml per kg of birthweight as the first protein feed after birth, with another 60ml within six hours. But to prevent hypothermia, twin lambs born outside would need an additional 210ml/kg in the first 18 hours. That adds up to just over 1100ml in total for a 4kg twin lamb reared outside.”