Thursday, June 5, 2014

Weaning Lambs

Weaning Orphan Lambs

Lambs are born with an immature digestive system. They are unable to digest anything but milk in the first stage of their life. The lambs digestive system must be fully developed before they can be moved from a milk based diet to a grass based diet.

The weight of the lambs when weaning is a more important consideration than the age.

Orphan lambs can be weaned from the milk bottle at around 25 to 30 pounds. 

They usually reach this weight when they are 30 to 45 days old.

Orphan lambs should not be weaned unless the are drinking water and eating solids.

Its best to wean abruptly never dilute the milk replacer.

Offer the lamb good quality hay and access to grass at 2 to 3 weeks of age so that their digestive system develops properly.

The lambs may be introduced to lamb creep feed at a week old. They will properly not eat it but the will lick it and become familiar with it. Change the creep feed everyday as it can be a breading ground for bacteria. 

The lambs must have access to clean fresh water. 

Never give the lamb weaker formula when weaning you can reduce the amount of bottles per day but not the quality of the bottle.

A sign that the weaning is successful is when the lamb is chewing their cud and they are producing  pebbled looking droppings.

The lambs should  ideally be 3 times their birth weight before they are weaned.

They should be eating 250 to 300 grams of pellets once they have been weaned.

You can also wean the lambs gradually by reducing the amounts of bottle feeds a day until the lamb is completely weaned to pellets.

Don't wean your lamb too early. If you try to wean the lamb before their ruman is working properly they will starve to death.

Just Born
Weaning Lambs From The Ewe

The weaning of lambs occurs when they are removed from their milk diet onto a diet of grains and forage.

The weaning is stressful on the ewe and the lamb.
Common rule of thumb is that the lamb can be weaned from the ewe at 45lb or at 60 days old.
If the lambs are not weaned correctly they will be under performers. 
When deciding when to wean the weight of the lamb is a greater concern than the age.
Some lambs are weaned very early at 14 days while others are weaned naturally staying with the ewe 6 months or more.
Weaning weight is affected by the birth weight of the lamb, the milk of the ewe and the genetic potential of the lamb.
You need to take into account your target market, grain supplies and price, the available pasture when deciding your weaning strategy.
Ewes milk production peaks at 3 to 4 weeks and by 10 weeks they are producing half of this. 

Newly weaned lambs should be closely monitored. Coccidiosis is most common in newly weaned lambs.

When ewes and lambs are separated they should not be close enough to hear each other.

Siblings should be kept together and other groupings of lambs.

The ewes should be removed from the lambs as there will be less stress on the lamb if its in a familiar environment.

Early Weaning

This is weaning after 14 days but before 90 days.

The size of the lamb is more important than the age of the lambs when weaning.

When you separate the lambs from the ewes this means you have two groups to manage.

Enterotoxemia is most common in early weaned lambs its also known as overeating disease.

Early weaning from the ewe will be a success if the lamb is drinking water and eating enough dry grain.

With early weaning

Cull ewes can be sold earlier.
Lambs can go to market earlier.
Weaned lambs are efficient feed converters.
Ewes can return to breed conditions sooner and it reduces the lactation stress on ewes. 
Its not necessary to castrate ram lambs.

The problems associated with early weaning are that its very stressful on the lamb and ewe, ewes are more prone to mastitis and more dry feed and pastures are consumed.
If your ewe suffers from mastitis she may not be productive in the future. If you want to reduce the risk of mastitis in the early weaned ewes you should aim to stop their milk production. You should remove grain from their diet 2 weeks before weaning. Feeding straw a few days before weaning will reduce the production of milk. Don't put the ewe out in high quality pasture just after weaning  as this will increase milk production.

Late Weaning

This is a natural weaning and occurs when the lamb is around 6 months old.

Most ewes naturally wean their lambs by walking away from the lambs when the lamb attempts to suck on them.
It is more natural than early weaning and reduces the risk of mastitis on the ewe.
The longer the lamb is with the ewe the more they will learn. The lambs will learn where to drink water, where to forage, how to find shade all the flock behaviour needed.
The lambs can use the available forage. Having the lambs on pasture rather than on grains is usually more economical.
The disadvantages of late weaning are that lambs must compete with the ewes for forage. Out on the pasture there is more of a risk of predators. There is more risk of worm larvae infections. The male lambs need to be castrated at 3 to 4 months if still with the mother. Castrated lambs do not grow as fast as non castrated lambs

Ewe's catwalk

Friday, April 18, 2014

E Coli (Watery Mouth) In Lambs

E.coli enterotocamenia is a contagious disease which is also known as watery mouth or rattle belly.

Lambs usually become victim to this disease when sucking on a dirty teat.

It is often found in young lambs and can lead to death if not treated on time.

The lamb can die within hours of infection.

Young lambs do not have the same defences to protect them form the e.coli bacteria, therefore lambs between one  and three days old are more susceptible to an infection of e coli.

If there is an outbreak on a farm up to a quarter of the lambs may be infected, with  two thirds of those infected not surviving.

The lambs contract the e coli through the ingestion of the e coli bacteria. 

A lack of adequate quality colostrum ingestion and absorption increases the risk of infection of watery mouth.

There are more cases in lambs who are housed  in sheds than the lambs that are  outdoors.

There are vaccinations available for e coli (watery mouth).


Most sheep carry a wide range of bacteria, that they themselves are immune against. 
They excrete the bacteria in their droppings. These droppings lead to the environment being contaminated with bacteria. The new born lambs to not have the same resistance against these bacteria that the sheep have.

The consumption of a large amount of e coli bacteria by the lamb, that then replicate at an alarming rate in the intestine  causes the illness.

Contaminated dust in the air can cause the illness.

The lambs naval can be an entry point for the bacteria.

The lambs can contract  e coli from oral contact with contaminated bedding.

The unclean udders of their mothers can lead to infection.

Their mothers wool can be contaminated with the e coli and the lamb may suck on it.

Young lambs are more at risk of contracting this disease if they are living in overcrowded conditions.

If there is poor hygiene the lambs risk of infection increases.

The lambs should not be living in wet damp conditions if you want them to be healthy and disease free.


The lamb will appear quiet and lie alone in the pen.

The lamb will appear dull, tired and depressed.

They will appear full as constipation is one of the symptoms.

The lambs mouth will be cold to touch, it will be colder than the rest of the body.

The lamb will be excessively salivating.

The lambs lower jaw will be wet.

In rare cases there will be diarrhoea.

The lamb will be reluctant to eat.

If you pinch the skin on the back of the lambs neck and it stays up then this is a sign of dehydration.

If you wake the lamb and it is slow to get up and does not stretch then there is a problem. 
Most lambs after a good rest will stretch just like humans like to stretch.

Rattle belly - the gentle shaking of the infected lambs results in a sound coming from their stomach.


The quicker the infection is treated the more positive the outcome.

Broad spectrum antibiotics need to be administered.

Re-hydration is key to the treatment, the lost fluids need to be replaced.
You can buy electrolyte tablets or solutions from your vet, they need to 
be administered to the lamb for re-hydration.
You can also make a home made electrolyte solution though shop bought is best.

An enema can be performed to ease the constipation in the lamb. This can be done by using a syringe and warm soapy water. The warm soapy water is injected up the lambs behind.

A mild laxative can be given to the lamb.

A probiotic will help in getting the lambs digestive system fully functioning again.
While the lamb is ill it is best to keep him under a heat lamp or in your kitchen beside the range, as the lamb needs to be warmed up.

The antibiotics, electrolytes and TLC should increases the chances of recovery.

Sadly the death rate is high with this illness.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eye Diseases in Lambs


Pinkeye in lambs is caused by chlamydia and mycoplasma bacteria.
Pinkeye is contagious and infected lambs should be removed from the flock until they have recovered.
The infection may last a few days to several weeks.
Moderate to severe infections require antibiotics. Mild infections may clear up by themselves. The first sign of pinkeye infection is the reddening and swelling of the lining of the eye. There will be a discharge with tearing and matted eyes.The eyes will be sensitive to light and will tear up. The lamb may close its eyes when exposed to sunlight.The lamb suffers pain when infected with pinkeye. The eye may cloud over and develop a painful ulcer. The severe infections will cause the eyes to rupture and lead to blindness.
It cannot be transferred from lambs to humans. It is transmitted by flies, dust and other nasty things that are living in your lambing shed.
The best prevention of pinkeye is good clean husbandry of your stock.

General Eye Infection

The lamb may suffer a bacterial eye infection due to an irritant. If a foreign objects such as dust, stone or seed get lodged in the lambs eye it can lead to a bacterial infection. A discharge from the eye will be a sign of infection. Topical antibiotics may be required to clear the infection.


This is when the lambs eyelid is turned in.
This problem is found in all breeds of sheep male and female.
Its most commonly found in the lower eyelid.
The  cornea may be  damaged which can lead to blindness.
This condition needs to be treated as soon as possible.
The lamb suffers pain with this condition.
The turned in eyelids lashes will irritate the eye causing ulcerations.
It is a congenital disease that  is thought to be inherited but this fact has not been proven.
First sign of the problem  is a weepy eye. The cornea may be cloudy
Topical antibiotics should be used to avoid infections.
A lamb with this problem should not be selected for breeding.

Treatment of Entropian

Treatment involves the injecting of 1ml of slowly absorbed antibiotic under the skin of the lower lid with a thin tipped needle.

Saline can be injected into the bottom eyelid to create a bubble. A small amount of saline is used. This method streches out the eyelid.

In very mild cases manual eversion may work. Eyelids should be dried and a fold of skin close to the eyelid margin should be pressed briefly and firmly between the finger and thumb.This eversion should be repeated several times a day. A topical lubricant should be applied to protect the cornea. You are basicly rolling the eyelid out.

The younger the lamb the more successful these types of treatments are. As the younger lambs lids are softer and more pliable.

In more advanced cases the surgical removal of an elliptical piece of skin with suturing will be required.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Main Health Problems Suffered By Lambs

This is caused due to a bacterial infection. It may be treated with antibiotic's.

Bacterial Meningitis
Lambs may get this at 2 to 4 weeks of age. Inadequate intake of colostrum makes the lamb more susceptible to this infection. The lamb will hold his head rigidly downward when infected.

Common cause of death in young lambs. Lambs cannot regulate their temperature during the first day and a half of life. Lambs need to be in a clean draft free environment protected by their mother.

Copper Deficiency 
The lamb will have difficulty walking and standing.

Enterotoxemia Type C
It is a bacteria found in the soil. You need to vaccinate the ewe against this before lambing. Infection arrives when there is  a change in feeding. It causes bleeding in the small intestine of young lambs.

Enterotoxemia Type D
The ewe needs to be vaccinated against this before lambing. Overfeeding of the lamb causes the bacteria that are already present in the lambs gut to suddenly proliferate causing a deadly infection. Lambs one month and older are prone to this disease.

Border Disease Also known as fuzzy lamb syndrome.
This effects new born lambs. Its caused by a virus. They tremble uncontrollably and have a fuzzy coat. There is no treatment.

This is  due to an iodine deficiency in the ewe's diet. The lambs thyroid gland swells. The lambs neck will appear larger or it will have a lump on its neck. Lambs born with goiter will be weak, have trouble feeding and will have no wool.

E.Coli Scours
Affects new lambs when the shed is unsanitary. Keep the lambs living area clean. Treatment involves antibiotics and hydration of the lamb. Also known as watery mouth as the sick lambs will salivate excessively and have cold mouths.

Scours Also known as diarrhea
May be due to an infection, stress, overfeeding or a change in diet. Death due to dehydration is a risk with scours. Ensure that your lamb is kept hydrated.Give the lamb liquids with electrolytes.

Spider Syndrome
Causes lambs to have malformed bones.

White Muscle Disease 
This is due to the ewe or lamb lacking in vitamin e or selenium at times both. It is treated by injecting the lamb or ewe with vitamin e or selenium or both. It is  best to prevent this disease by ensuring that the ewe and lamb have a diet rich in vitamin e and selenium. The lamb may suffer from an arched back tucked in flank and stiff hind legs.

The infected lamb will have laboured breathing and a fever. Good farming practices should prevent this. Lambs usually suffer pneumonia due to inadequate housing or being exposed bad weather conditions. A build up of ammonia in the shed along with dust increases the lambs risk of pneumonia.

Foot Scald
A bacterial infection that causes lameness in lambs. Long wet pastures are more prone to foot scald. Antibiotic spray or foot baths can be used to treat the infection.
Scabby Mouth
A contagious  viral infection but there are vaccines. Painful scabs form around the lambs mouth.

This can be fatal for the lamb but treatable if caught on time. Its caused by the overfeeding of grain to young lambs. Acid builds up in the gut and bloodstream. Some signs of it are high fever and  diarrhea. Drenching the lamb with water and baking soda is a common treatment.

Sadly this is a fatal disease with no known cure. Effects the lambs central nervous system.

Internal Parasites
Hygienic farming practices will prevent this potentially fatal infection of internal practices. When infected with parasites the lamb will suffer from diarrhea and depression. Their digestive system will be damaged.Treatment involves hydration and access to a heat lamp or warm kitchen fire.

Joint or Navel Ill
This disease is preventable by dipping or spraying the lambs navel with iodine. When infected the lambs navel may be red and swollen. They will have hot, painful joints and suffer from a fever. Penicillin is a known treatment.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sheep Quotes

The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Increasing Ewe Milk Production For Lambs

Milk production in ewes usually lasts between 60 to 120 days. The milk production increases from the birth of the lamb and it reaches its peak at 4 to 6 weeks. It starts to decline after it reaches its peak. Milk production is very important during the first 3 weeks as it is the lambs only source of nutrition.

Older ewe's tend to produce more milk.

The ewes nutrition during gestation and while lactating has a huge effect on the quantity and quality of the ewes milk. Ewes underfed during this time will have a rapid decline in milk production. Ewes with poor body condition will have poor milk production.

In order for the ewe to have high quality milk she must have a high quality diet.

If a ewe has a parasite problem this will effect her condition and thereon the lactation.

Ewes milk is 85%water so the sheep should always have access to clean fresh water.

The fat content in a ewes milk mostly comes from roughage. If you want to increase the quality of the ewes milk the ewes diet should be supplemented with extra roughage such as hay.

The amount of nutrients required during lactation is dependant upon the number of lambs the ewe has drooped.
There is a big difference in nutritional requirements between single, twin and triplet mothers.
The ewes should be split up into different groups for feeding according to whether they have had singles. twins or triplets.

Remember overfeeding of ewes after they have had the lambs can lead to milk production problems. It can be just as damaging as underfeeding.

The overfeeding can create problems with acidosis which can lead to less milk production rather than more.

You also need to avoid overfeeding of grain in the weeks before weaning. You need to modify the pre-weaning feeding of ewe's to reduce the risk of mastitis.
The last 10 days before weaning, the grain and hay feeding needs to be reduced.
Feeding straw 2-3 days before weaning helps shut down milk production.

After weaning the ewe's should be maintained on low quality feed for 4 to 7 days.

If a ewe has lost a lamb and is not feeding a lamb she needs to be maintained on a low quality feed to halt lactation.