‘Colostrum feeding is critical to prevent lambs dying from exposure’

Given the current unseasonal weather conditions lambs must get colostrum as soon as they are born, according to Teagasc Business Development and Drystock Advisor John Noonan.

“Otherwise they will quickly die from exposure,” he said.

“A combination of heavy rain, strong winds and cool conditions will act to significantly reduce a lamb’s body temperature. And if this issue is not addressed in short order, the end result, in most cases, will be the death of the newborn.”

The Westport-based advisor is recommending that ewes should be brought to the most sheltered fields available on farms or taken indoors for lambing.

“I know this will create more work for farmers, but there is no way round it,” he said.

“In light of the current cold snap ewes with young lambs must be fed concentrates. For a lowland ewe with twin lambs, the advised feeding rate is 2kg per day. This should be offered as a split feed in order to reduce the problems associated with mis-mothering.

“Hill ewes with single lambs should receive up to 1½ lb of nuts per day. Feeding meals in this way will also prevent problems such as tetany and milk fever. ”

Noonan also confirmed that grass availability is now scarce on most sheep farms.

“The weather forecast for the week ahead is quite good,” he said.

“As soon as ground conditions permit, farmers should get fertilise spread. But it will take at least 2 to 3 weeks for swards to respond. In the meantime ewes and lambs should be confined in terms of the ground they have access to. This will encourage optimal levels of grass growth across the rest of the farm.

“If possible, sheep should be housed at night and fed hay or silage until grass availability starts to improve. The reality is that the weather has conspired to make life difficult for sheep farmers at the present time. Feeding extra concentrate is the only way around this problem. And this is an added cost which flockowners will have to bear for the next fortnight at least.”

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