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About 50% of lamb losses occur in the first 48 hours after birth

As peak lambing season approaches ensure all the necessary supplies are in stock, writes CAFRE’s Nigel Gould.

These include iodine solution for navels, lubricant, gloves, lambing aids, powdered colostrum substitute or frozen colostrum, stomach tube and/or feeding bottles.

A lamb warming box is also useful for reversing hypothermia in newborn lambs; it works by circulating warm air within the box. Regularly monitor the temperature in the box aiming for a temperature of 38.5oC.

Losses 

Approximately half of lamb losses occur in the first 48 hours after birth, with 30% occurring between scanning and lambing. Being prepared reduces losses and stress during the busy lambing period. Lambing pens should be at least 1.2 m by 1.8 m. Allow one pen for every eight to ten ewes – the number depends on the expected lambing spread.

Provide plenty of clean straw as this will keep levels of infection in the shed to a minimum.

Colostrum 

An adequate intake of high-quality colostrum by lambs as soon as possible after birth will increase lamb survival rate. Colostrum provides the newborn lamb with a vital source of energy. The immunoglobulins in the colostrum also provide immunity to disease.

As the immunoglobulins are specific to pathogens in your flock, colostrum from your own ewes is superior to any replacement colostrum brought in.

An appropriate feeding regime pre-lambing, based on scanned litter size and time until lambing, will ensure good quality colostrum is produced.

Newborn lambs require 50 ml of colostrum per kilogramme of body weight within the first four to six hours of birth and 200-250 ml per kilogramme weight within the first 24 hours. The latter is equivalent to approximately one-litre for a typical twin lamb weighing 4.0-4.5 kg.

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