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Spring Time Lamb Health

First published in the magazine of the BCSBA, September 2013. Reproduced with permission of the author.

As we approach lambing time there are a few things we need to keep an eye on to keep them healthy and growing well.

What do I do at docking?

If you have followed the advice to give your ewes a pre-lamb vaccination with a clostridial vaccine, then your lambs should have good protection against tetanus at docking time. If you haven’t vaccinated your ewes pre-lamb then it would be best to vaccinate your lambs before docking to ensure this protection is in place when you actually dock them. Generally lambs don’t need a drench at docking as they aren’t eating much grass so shouldn’t have picked up many worms.

Weaning time

You probably have your own plan about when to wean and this is fine if all goes to plan. Be open to adjustments depending on the season. If feed is tight, don’t be afraid to wean lambs a bit earlier onto their own patch of good grass where they don’t have to compete with their mothers for feed. If you are heading into another drought, try to get your lambs up to weight and gone as soon as possible so you can save feed for those carried through. Weaning is a stressful time for lambs so try to minimise extra stress – don’t shear lambs around weaning time. If lambs are under stress before weaning, a pre-weaning drench may be needed, including tapeworm control. Often an B12 supplement at weaning helps reduce the growth check that can occur at this time. A clostridial vaccination before weaning will protect lambs from pulpy kidney and is well worth the money spent.

Lamb Health

Pneumonia in lambs is a problem that can lead to sudden losses or animals that just never ‘do’, There are some management strategies that we can use to help reduce the chances of pneumonia occurring

  1. Don’t shear lambs around weaning,
  2. Minimise stress on lambs so feed them well on good quality pasture, use B12 supplementation if needed, monitor and treat parasite burdens, use pour-on flystrike preventions at docking and as the weather warms , and get your lambs up to weight and away as soon as possible,
  3. Avoid working lambs in dusty yards and on hot days. If lambs are mouth-breathing when mustering then there is too much pressure on them, so back off.

The best way to manage animal health is to feel the animal well and minimise the stress it suffers. Preventative treatments as required reduce the pressure the animal has to deal with and therefore means a healthier and heavier lamb.

Karen Phillips, BVSC, MNAZCVS,
CHB Vets Limited,
5 Northumberland St, Waipukurau

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