Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Sheep producers urged to protect lambs this spring

April 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Livestock

Sheep producers are being urged to protect flocks from preventable diseases after pregnancy scanners reported many ewes carrying fewer lambs than last year.

Some flocks are carrying 20-40% fewer lambs than last season, according to figures from MSD Animal Health. The concern is that productivity could be driven lower unless action is taken to maximise lamb numbers.

Challenging

Farmers facing a lower lamb crop this spring should avoid making the season even more challenging by skimping on essential vaccinations that protect young lambs against diseases which can cause significant mortalities, say experts.

“It looks like lamb numbers may well be down nationally this year, but if we get a kind spring weather-wise that will certainly help producers maximise the number of lambs reared, which is what counts,” says sheep vet Phillipa Page from Flock Health.

Sheep producers simply cannot afford to lose more lambs to easily preventable diseases, she adds. “In an era when proven and highly cost-effective vaccines are available, no lamb should die from a clostridial disease.”

Changes in the weather, diet and parasite infection – which can trigger clostridial disease and pasteurellosis in lambs – are difficult to mitigate, so vaccination of these newborns is essential, advises Ms Page.

Passive immunity

Colostrum given to lambs shortly after birth from a ewe fully vaccinated against these two key disease threats gives lambs provides short-lived protection against pasteurellosis and clostridial diseases like pulpy kidney, braxy, blackleg and tetanus.

But Ms Page warns: “This so-called passive immunity only lasts for so long. This means lambs must be vaccinated themselves from three weeks of age.”

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