Straw and lime: The key barriers to prevent the spread of disease this lambing season

As we edge closer to the mid-season lambing period, now is the time for farmers to stock up on essential supplies.

Two key essentials this lambing season are straw and lime – especially when being used in individual pens.

When a lamb is born, it is exposed to all sorts of bugs that may be present in the lambing shed. Therefore, providing a clean and warm bed for the newborn lambs is vital to minimise the risk of health problems.

According to Teagasc, 23% of farmers do not clean or disinfect their lambing/individual pens, with 38% of lamb losses caused by an infection.

Lots of harmful bacteria are created – by the flock – over the housing and lambing period with young lambs being most at risk of picking up adverse infections.

Therefore, it is vitally important that farmers don’t hold back on using straw and lime during the lambing season.

Individual pens

Before the lambing period kicks off, farmers should set up a number of individual pens – near the door of the shed – where there is good ventilation.

Furthermore, when the pens are set up, lime should be spread around all four corners of the pen and covered with an adequate amount of straw.

A much greater emphasis must be put on hygiene in this area. It’s important to make sure that the pen is kept clean and dry to prevent disease for both the ewe and her lambs by using plentiful amounts of fresh straw.

After use, the pen should be cleaned – thoroughly – and covered in fresh lime and straw again.

If you think the pen is still damp after being cleaned, then another cover of straw should be applied. Damp bedding conditions are a quick way for a lamb to become cold.

Also, a lamb that is moved into a damp pen, with a wet navel, is more likely to pick up an infection and the chances of that lamb surviving are reduced.

The cost of buying straw and a bag or two of lime will be a much cheaper option than buying antibiotics to treat sick lambs.

Setting up the individual pens where there is good ventilation will help dry out the pens quicker.

Moreover, adequately bedding ewes with straw will reduce the incidence of lameness.