Sheep - Things to do this Month - May

SHEEP – for a March/April lambing flock:

Adjust the following dates for earlier/later lambing flocks, and see last month’s guidance for later lambing flocks

  • lamb-and-ewe-2014As the weather warms this month watch out for early cases of flystrike. It’s not recommended to use a ‘pour-on’ product so close to shearing time as it will leave chemical residues on the fleeces; instead, consider the following prevention methods: clean any mucky bottoms promptly, put out fly traps to reduce the population (www.redtopflycatcher.co.uk), add garlic granules to the ewes’ feed or use a bucket lick with garlic (www.brinicombe.co.uk). Most importantly of all, spend time watching the flock so that you will notice any abnormal behaviour that could indicate the presence of maggots on the sheep.
  • Drench newly lambed ewes before turning out onto pasture as they lose much of their acquired immunity to gut parasites during lambing time (this effect is called PPRI – Peri Parturient Relaxation of Immunity), and will therefore deposit eggs onto the pastures, which will then be ingested by the lambs. Use a drench with a persistent action containing Moxydectin for greatest protection, but don’t drench all ewes – leave a small percentage of fit, single-bearing younger ewes undrenched to avoid selecting for parasite resistance.
  • Avoid turning lambs out onto pastures that carried lambs the previous year (to do so would favour Nematodirosis as the parasite N. Battus can survive the harshest winter – see below).
  • Continue to feed ewes at ‘stepped-down’ rate for up to 6 weeks after lambing – or discontinue feeding sooner if grass is good and ewes recover condition quickly
  • Treat any lame ewes promptly, if her feet hurt the ewe may be reluctant to stand to allow her lambs to suckle, and if the cause is footrot, it will spread to the other ewes and their lambs
  • Offer creep feed to lambs from 2 weeks of age – they may not eat a lot, but this early feeding will help gut development and increase their ability to utilise fodder efficiently at later stages of their life – ensure the feed is designed specifically for lambs to avoid the possibility of urinary calculi
  • Monitor ewes for mastitis, signs to look out for are: hungry lambs, ewes not letting lambs feed; this can develop at weaning
  • As the maternal protection against clostridial disease and pasturella starts to wane 4-6 weeks post-birth, give lambs their 1st vaccination (to be followed by a further jab 6 weeks later)
  • If any of your ewes aborted, this is the time to ask your vet to carry out blood-testing to check for Enzootic (chlamidial) abortion or Toxoplasmosis
  • Be vigilant against parasites in the lamb flock and treat as soon as symptoms occur. Be especially on guard against Coccidiosis (causes severe scouring / diarrhoea, can be identified by carrying out an FEC) and Nematodirosis – this is caused by a very nasty parasite and can lead to high death rates in lambs (typically at around 6-12 weeks old), and due to its unique lifecycle CANNOT ALWAYS BE IDENTIFIED by faecal egg counting. Keep an eye on the NADIS Parasite Forecast for temperature alerts in your region and be advised by your vet regarding local risks and treat lambs without delay if advised to do so. If lambs are on ‘dirty’ pastures that carried lambs during the previous year, you may consider giving a prophylactic, or preventative drench (use a Group 1 – white drench containing Albendazole for Nematodirus, unless you suspect that other parasite species may also be present which may be resistant to this group).
  • Shearing – book your contractor (or book onto a BWMB course and train to shear your own flock), and plan your handling system: pen sheep ready for shearing (preferably starve for 12 hours before); electricity supply for shearer; smooth-topped table for rolling fleeces; stand to support the wool sack
  • Treat shorn ewes, lambs and rams with ‘pour on’ product for flystrike protection – consider using an IGR (Insect Growth Regulator) with a 16-week persistence
  • Plan how you will wean the lambs so that you will have good grazing for them (aftermath following haymaking is ideal, as it will be ‘clean’ grazing) and poorer pasture for the ewes to help dry off their milk supply. The lambs will be ready for weaning at about 16 weeks of age; this is best done abruptly, with the ewes and lambs out of sight and sound of one another.
  • Once weaned, lambs should be monitored closely for gut parasites by carrying out frequent FECs
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