Lambing is fast approaching on many mid-season lambing flocks. Given this, it’s an ideal time to undertake clostridial vaccinations.

‘Booster’ vaccinations are due two-to-six weeks pre-lambing. It’s important to vaccinate the ewes in relation to these diseases, as their colostrum is the main source of antibodies against clostridial diseases in newborn lambs.

The majority of products available on the market should be given four weeks before lambing is due to commence. It’s also important to remember that a full, two-shot primary course will be required to ensure that the sheep have adequate protection.

By annually vaccinating the ewes, their antibody levels remain sufficiently high to allow protective cover to be transferred to the lamb via colostrum.

However, it must be remembered that in order for the lambs to benefit from the vaccination, they must receive adequate quantities of good-quality colostrum within the first two hours after birth. The sooner the lambs get this colostrum, the more benefits they will get from it.

The most common pitfalls with vaccination
  • Not giving lambs the full primary course:
    • By not completing the vaccination course, the immunity levels from the first vaccine shot are not sufficient to protect your sheep and you can still have losses.
  • Administering a lower dose of vaccine than is recommended:
    • By administering a smaller vaccine dose, the sheep are being under dosed and, as a result, will have a lower antibody response and may well not be protected in the face of infection.
  • Incorrect storage of the vaccine:
    • Vaccines must be kept refrigerated as per the instructions and are sensitive to temperature changes.
  • Not using a vaccine which covers multiple clostridia:
    • There are a number of vaccines on the Irish market, many of which cover up to 10 individual clostridial bacterial species and toxins;
    • It’s advisable to use a vaccine that covers as many clostridia and toxins as possible as the difference can be catastrophic and – in many cases – the price difference between the two vaccines per sheep is small.