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What Causes Lamb Deaths On Your Farm?

19 March 2020

Recording lamb death is not a fun activity but it can be useful to identify patterns early on and refine management for next year.  A simple tally can be downloaded here and placed near the dead lamb disposal area on a clipboard for all staff to complete.

Some deaths are unavoidable but it will flag the avoidable deaths and dominant causes.  The main areas for improvement will come back to nutrition, genetics, proactive health management, hygiene and general stockmanship.

For instance, if you see a lot of watery mouth along with lack of colostrum and small weak lambs.  This comes back to nutrition, check the ration for energy and protein and ensure feed space is sufficient (trough: 45cm/ewe and ad lib forage: 15cm/ewe).

If there are a lot of big, hung lambs – perhaps they have been over fed in late pregnancy.  Next year, correct ewe condition before tupping and monitor to maintain condition through pregnancy so they don’t get too thin or too fat.  Also, consider easier lambing genetics.

Laid on, crushed lambs and suffocated lambs comes back to stockmanship and sufficient lying space.  Individual ewe and lamb pens should be at least 1 x 2m, consider raised troughs and feeders to maximise floor space.

Improvements in lambing management is always ongoing – monitor causes of loss to continually improve.

The lamb mortality recording sheet was developed in the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Project – Live Lambs – funded by Scottish Government and delivered by SAC Consulting.

Poppy Frater,

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