Sheep - Things to do this Month - April

SHEEP – for a March/April lambing flock:

Keep watching the calendar, refer to our Sample Flock Health Plan and adjust key management dates to fit your lambing calendar

  • lambing-3-iodineIf any ewes are looking in poor condition and ground conditions have been wet, chronic liver fluke could be the cause. If your ewes are affected it can lead to poor foetal growth, poor udder development and impaired immunity. At this time of year and stage of the disease a faecal egg count (FEC) will identify fluke eggs: if positive, treat with a narrow-spectrum flukicide that targets mature fluke.
  • Now is the time to plan turnout for ewes and lambs; the grass has been growing well in most parts of the country, so work out a field rotation to ensure that lambs don’t go out onto a paddock that carried lambs during the previous year, preferably two years if you have the space
  • Continue to monitor ewes’ condition – if you’re unsure about how to do this, watch Adam Henson on our YouTube Channel demonstrating How to Condition Score, an extract from our DVD series, Sheep on Your Smallholding – “Managing Your Flock for Peak Health”
  • Continue feeding good quality forage and an appropriate amount of concentrates to ewes (no more than 0.5kg at any one feed), in the final weeks of pregnancy and the first 5-6 weeks after lambing. If you’ve had your forage analysed, you can adjust the amount of concentrates accordingly. To help you calculate the amounts, we’ve produced a guide to Nutritional Management of Ewes in Late Pregnancy. Remember; don’t suddenly change the ewes’ diet as this can induce metabolic diseases.
  • As lambing draws near, observe ewes’ behaviour – separation from the flock may indicate metabolic diseases that can affect ewes in the late stages of pregnancy: Twin Lamb Disease (also called ‘Pregnancy Toxaemia’), Hypocalcaemia (also called ‘Milk Fever’), and Hypomagnesaemia (usually seen after lambing, also called ‘Grass Staggers’). These are life-threatening – see “The Breeding Flock” DVD for descriptions of each of the metabolic diseases, both pre- and post-lambing, and how to treat them, or read our article HERE
  • At lambing: treat navels by dipping the umbilical cord and surrounding area into a pot of iodine as soon as possible after birth
  • Record birth weights and ‘ease of lambing’ scores – this information is invaluable for selecting replacement breeding ewes for future years
  • Clean and disinfect lambing pens between occupants
  • If any ewes abort, or you have small weakly lambs, wearing gloves collect the foetus and placenta (cleansings) in a plastic bag and ask your vet to submit them to the AHVLA for laboratory investigation
  • Isolate any aborting ewes
  • REMEMBER – many of the infectious causes of abortion in sheep pose serious risks to pregnant women, who should avoid sheep at lambing time – refer to this article by HSE for further information
  • Lambs are born with a supply of brown fat around their kidneys that will sustain them for about 5 hours, during which time it should suck from its mother. Any lamb that doesn’t suck within this time is at danger of hypothermia (one of the greatest killers of lambs). Monitor new lambs closely and tube feed any that haven’t fed by this time and are still holding their head up – never tube a floppy lamb. These life-saving protocols are described in full on our DVD “The Breeding Flock”, or read our article “Helping the Newborn Lamb”
  • Clean and disinfect lambing pens between lambings, and use a powder disinfectant (eg. Stalosan) sprinkled on group housing areas at least every other day
  • Drench ewes at turnout, if not drenched at housing, in line with your Flock Health Plan – ideally, use a drench with a persistent action, eg. Cydectin
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