How to manage your ewes and lambs during difficult weather conditions

Over the past few weeks, ground conditions have deteriorated quite fast due to a number of storms and persistent rain.

Therefore, the opportunity to get ewes and their lambs out to pasture has been made that bit more difficult to do.

In the case of early-lambing flocks, the majority of farmers will have their ewes and lambs out on pasture for the best part of six weeks now. Therefore, the risk of losing lambs is quite low.

In fact, it’s the ewes that are lambing down now that are of concern – especially their newborn lambs.

Therefore, first and foremost, a newborn lamb needs to be fed 1L of colostrum in the first 24 hours. If not, the chances of that lamb surviving are low.

After 24 hours, if weather conditions are suitable, a ewe and her lambs should be turned out to pasture first thing in the morning.

Moreover, offering lambs access to fresh, clean pastures, free of any parasites, is the best way of avoiding health problems in the coming weeks – in terms of lambs picking up worms.

Farmers should free up pens in the shed for ewes and their lambs if poor weather conditions persist

As well as that, in good weather, farmers tend to let ewes with one lamb at foot out to pasture after 12 hours and 24 hours for ewes with two or more lambs at foot.

However, if the weather is bad and if there is space available in the shed, it would be best to leave them indoors until the weather clears up.

In an ideal scenario, it is best practice to let a ewe and her lambs out to grass when it is dry. Lambs that are let out to pasture in wet conditions are susceptible to becoming cold and hypothermic.

Furthermore, if weather conditions are poor and grass covers are low, it’s best practice to supplement ewes with concentrates or good-quality silage.

To prevent poaching, it is best to let ewes and lambs out in small groups and, if possible, move them into fields where there is shelter.

In summary, to optimise ewe and lamb performance in poor weather conditions, the following practices (below) should be followed.

These include:

  • Make sure lambs get at least 1L of colostrum;
  • Delay turning out to pasture if the weather is bad;
  • Tighten up ewe numbers in the shed to free up pens for ewes and their lambs;
  • Turn out ewes and lambs to pasture early in the morning;
  • Move ewes and lambs out to small paddocks, with sufficient shelter;
  • Supplement ewes with concentrates or good-quality silage;
  • Rehouse ewes and lambs if poor weather conditions persist.