WHY do newborn lambs die?
Unlike humans, there isn’t a transfer of antibodies from the mother so lambs arrive with no protection against diseases and are reliant on colostrum for passive immunity.
Newborn lambs also have a very permeable gut lining which can let ingested bacteria and toxins straight into the blood stream.
They are born with a finite amount of brown fat. This is effectively their energy reserves from birth until they are able to feed.
Newborn lambs have a very large surface area to body weight ratio which makes them more susceptible to heat loss –especially when wet.
Almost 50 per cent of lamb losses occur in the first 48 hours of life, but there are things you can do to improve survival rates.
What do lambs need to thrive?
All lambs need to be identified and well bonded with their mother as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter what breeds you have, there is always a possibility of rejection. Should this happen where the bond can’t be rekindled, intervention needs to be quick.
Lambs are born wet, often into cold, wet conditions. With this environment and their large surface area to body weight ratio, they can often use up a lot of their finite energy levels just maintaining body temperature. By ensuring they are dry, they can save their energy.
To minimise the chance of disease the lamb’s navel should be treated with iodine as soon as possible after birth – ideally within 15 minutes.
Make sure the lamb has suckled and ingested sufficient colostrum as soon as possible after birth – within six hours. This highly nutritious energy source will both help protect the lamb against disease, help with maintaining body temperature and, therefore, help it survive.
Be sure to check the ewe has an adequate milk supply. While it is preferable for the lamb to feed on ewe colostrum, if for any reason this is in short supply then it must be fed quickly from another source. This could be fresh or frozen from another ewe or, if necessary, a high-quality natural alternative such as Volostrum from Volac.
Try to avoid unnecessary interference. Ideally, assistance in lambing should only really occur if the ewe or the lamb’s life is at risk.
Finally, do ensure good hygiene at all times. One in five lambs may die simply because of an unhygienic environment. You can prevent that!
What are the 3Q rules of colostrum?
QUICKLY: As mentioned, the gut wall is particularly permeable after birth – by ingesting colo-strum quickly the large antibody molecules are absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
QUANTITY: Volac recommend 50ml/kg live weight per feed with a minimum 210ml/kg live weight within the first 24 hours. Don’t forget to increase the colostrum allowance by 15-20 per cent for lambs reared outdoors.
QUALITY: The quality will determine the level of antibodies present. This can be affected by the following:
Ewe condition: good body condition and having been vaccinated against infectious abortion and clostridial disease.
Ewe parity: the number of previous lambings.
Ewe health: healthy well-nourished ewes are able to develop a healthy placenta which reaches its optimum size around day 90 of pregnancy.
n For further information Freephone 0800 8652 2522, visit www.lamlac.co.uk or contact Volac NI business manager Alistair Sampson on 07860 626442, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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