Ewe condition will be more important than ever this year to prevent watery mouth as sheep farmers battle antibiotic shortage.
Focusing on pre-lambing ewe condition and nutrition will improve lamb health, reducing disease incidence, severity and reliance on antibiotics, says Simon Mellor, Animal Health Advisor at Carr’s Billington.
“Particular attention should be paid to diets in the six weeks before lambing for two reasons: this is when ewes start to produce colostrum, and 70% of foetal growth takes place during this period. An optimised diet will reduce the incidence of lambs with low birth weights which in turn will reduce their susceptibility to diseases like watery mouth.”
Mr Mellor recommends sourcing high-quality nuts or cake, if supplementary feeding is required, to achieve recommended pre-lambing body condition scores (BCS). The target BCS for a 60-80kg lowland ewe at lambing is 3.0-3.5, and for a 40-60kg hill ewe, 2.5. The amount of feed ewes require depends on forage quality, breed, and the number of lambs carried.
“Feed that contains a premium yeast fraction such as Safmannan® will also help to maximise colostrum quality, which is crucial for boosting lamb immunity.
“Look for cake or nuts that contains between 16-19% protein, according to forage quality and number of lambs, as this will maximise birth weights and help with milk production and quality. Increase concentrate feeds gradually and divide into two feeds a day if possible, or include in a TMR, to prevent acidosis.”
To achieve optimum condition, alongside adequate feed, ewes need sufficient minerals and vitamins.
“Selenium, cobalt and vitamin E help to promote lamb vigour. A nutritional supplement prior to lambing via a feed bucket can be used to provide this,” says Mr Mellor.
“Carefully assessing ewe condition and nutrition, along with other measures such as making sure the lambing environment is clean, could help to reduce the need for antibiotics that are in limited supply which would disrupt lambing this spring.”