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Preparation Produce Performance

As lambing is fast approaching it is important to get systems and protocols in place to ensure a labour-efficient, cost-efficient and productive lambing. The patterns similar to all successful businesses in all industries from Toyota to Tesco is ensuring that effective planning has been undertaken to minimise problems and maximise efficiency.

Lambing typically accounts for 25% of the labour hours undertaken on a sheep farm for a whole year so ensuring that these labour hours are as efficient and profitable is key. Walking the shed to identify areas where issues have occurred in previous years allows for mitigating procedures to be undertaken. Making sure things are handy and accessible will reduce workload. For example, piping water troughs to reduce lugging buckets of water around can save hours but there is a litany of labour-saving tips that can be acquired from neighbouring farmers. Why not attend a pre-lambing discussion group meeting at a neighbouring farm to get plenty of tips?

Given the recent spate of issues surrounding vaccine availability, it is worthwhile to plan for the clostridial and pasteurella vaccine doses you will likely require. Scanning data will help you identify the total number of lamb doses of clostridial and pasteurella vaccines you are likely to need, so get these ordered whilst they are available rather than being under pressure last minute.

Feeding ewes pre-lambing typically accounts for the largest feed cost on most sheep operations. Analysing your forage will help you to manage concentrate feeding levels appropriately and thus manage concentrate feed costs. Monitoring the efficacy of pre-lambing feeding can be done by organising pre-lambing blood tests with your veterinary surgeon. This is also a great opportunity to walk through lambing protocols such as colostrum feeding, disinfection protocols for lambing pens and treatment protocols for common ailments with your veterinary surgeon. You could even consider undertaking this veterinary visit through the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway with your veterinary practice.

Hygiene is key to success at lambing so ensure sheds have been steam cleaned, allowed to dry and disinfected with an appropriate disinfectant in plenty of time in advance of lambing. Allowing a shed to dry will take significant time in the winter so plan well in advance. Clean, dry, disinfect and dry all lambing equipment, lamb feeding equipment and hurdles. Discuss with your Vet based on your farm history what the most appropriate disinfectant to use, is as certain products such as Hydrogen peroxide are efficacious against cryptosporidium whilst others are not. Remember that a lambing shed is essentially a maternity ward so there is no such thing as too clean! This will help reduce incidences of watery mouth, joint ill and navel ill.

Having had such a wet year liver fluke burdens are an issue this year so undertaking monitoring through fluke coproantigen testing and fluke egg counts is prudent in ewes. Fluke coproantigen testing requires a dung sample from approximately six individual animals in a group. These tests can pick up a fluke infection two to four weeks after ingestion of the larvae, much earlier than waiting until eggs can be found in the faeces. Monitoring for fluke burdens is essential to ensure the usage of the right treatment at the right time. Resistance to triclabendazole products is prevalent and considering this is the only product that treats all stages of fluke so prudent use is warranted.

For larger operations now is the time to undertake staff training and make everyone on farm aware of all procedures and protocols. Communication challenges at lambing time can be mitigated by ensuring that everyone is working to the same goals in the same manner.

In Summary:

  • Review areas of concern from the last lambing.
  • Walk shed to identify potential labour-savings and attend a discussion group meeting.
  • Order all ewe and lamb vaccine in advance.
  • Analyse your forage and plan your pre-lambing ration.
  • Book in your pre-lambing vet visit.
  • Clean sheds and equipment with appropriate disinfectants.
  • Monitor the fluke status of your flock.
  • Undertake staff training.

For further information on NWF Sheep Feeds, please click HERE.

By Cormac White, Farm Vet at FarmVets Southwest.

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