E.coli is a type of bacteria that is found on all farms. It causes many problems in young lambs including watery mouth, navel ill, joint ill, meningitis and septicaemia. The best protection against E. coli infection is a full belly of colostrum as soon as possible after birth. Treating navels and keeping pens as clean as possible is also essential. Despite your best efforts the numbers of E. coli in the shed will rise as lambing progresses. This increases the risk of disease in later born lambs. As you will know from experience the conditions listed above can be difficult to treat and often lead to lamb deaths.
One question you should be asking this spring is whether or not the antibiotic you are using to treat sick lambs is capable of killing E. coli. SAC Veterinary Services have data from 295 isolates of E. coli. These bacteria were grown in our laboratories from samples and post-mortem material received from lambs aged 4 weeks or less. Testing showed that one in four (25%) were resistant to four or more different antibiotics and therefore treatment with them would not be successful.
We recommend that any problems at lambing time are discussed with your vet and investigated at an early stage. Knowing which antibiotics work could save lambs later on.
Heather Stevenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
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