Here are eight things to focus on ahead of lambing:
1. Make sure you have a system in place for rearing surplus lambs
Ad-lib ewe milk replacer feeding systems – such as the thermostatically-controlled Ewe 2 bucket or a computerised Volac Eco Feeder – will help save labour and secure better lamb growth rates. Why spend hours a day bottle-feeding when time can be better used elsewhere during a hectic lambing period?
2. Get pregnant ewe nutrition right
Ewes must be in the best condition possible for the last six weeks of pregnancy when 70% of foetal growth takes place. Get
it wrong and that can lead to poor lamb survival rates, low birth weights and inferior quality ewe colostrum.
Group and feed ewes according to scanning results and their condition score. Getting the mineral balance right is important too, so ask a Mole Valley Farmers Nutritionist for advice. Consider asking a vet to take blood samples from ewes four to six weeks pre-lambing just to make sure their diet is delivering the required energy and protein status.
3. Stock up with equipment and supplies
Lambing is always hectic and once the season starts there isn’t always the time to keep dashing out for essential kit. This means ordering materials well in advance, such as disinfectants for lambing pens, iodine for navels, castration rings, feeding tubes, marker sprays, sterilisation equipment, milk replacer, colostrum replacer and any other lambing essentials.
4. Check your flock health plan
Talk to your vet about essential disease management interventions pre and post lambing. For example, don’t forget to boost your ewes’ clostridial disease and pasteurellosis cover four to six weeks pre-lambing. Make sure any lame sheep are separated and treated well before housing. Check too, the protocols for dealing with any abortion problems, scours or joint ill.
5. Prepare the housing
When lambing indoors, sheds should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before ewes are brought inside (at least two weeks before lambing). Use plenty of clean, dry bedding to reduce the risk of spreading lameness and other infections such as watery mouth, joint ill and coccidiosis.
Good lighting is important too because it makes it so much easier to check stock without disturbing them too much.
Avoid overcrowding otherwise stress and disease issues can spiral out of control: a typical 70kg ewe needs 1.2m2 to 1.4m2 of floor space and 45cm of trough space.
6. Decide on the staffing levels
Lambing is a time of year when an extra pair of hands can be invaluable. Many flocks rely on students to help out, but it’s important to evaluate the level of help needed – particularly against a backdrop of any local coronavirus restrictions and necessary workplace safety measures. Students vary in their experience and knowledge, so be clear when advertising for staff what level of skills and experience you are looking for. Any new staff recruited need to know what is expected of them from the start and should be given clear management protocols.
7. Set targets for reducing lamb losses
Good records are essential to help benchmark performance to help identify any potential problem areas. A recording system doesn’t have to be sophisticated or complicated the important thing is to do it well and if you don’t record already, lambing time is a great time to start! You should be aiming for less than 15% lamb losses, but top performing flocks are achieving closer to 10%.
8. Feed surplus lambs enough milk
To grow effectively and finish as profitably as lambs reared on the ewe, each one of your surplus lambs will need nine to eleven litres of correctly mixed Mole Valley Farmers’ Lamlac from birth until weaning.
PLEASE SPEAK TO YOUR LOCAL store FOR ADVICE about your lambing requirements this season or call our sales and GENERAL ENQUIRIES TEAM ON 01769 576415.