Sheep Newsletter – Colostrum is Gold

By Lucy Hepworth

The focus of our brilliantly well attended recent sheep farmers meeting was colostrum – how to get the quality right, and how intake impacts on lamb disease.

A Welsh study in 2020 measured colostrum quality in a sample of ewes on 64 farms, and 75% of the samples met target quality. The biggest driver of quality was ewe nutrition. The correct protein intake in the last 3 weeks of pregnancy is key. Long term protein intake is obviously also really important; it is reflected in ewe body condition, and is impacted by nutrition, chronic disease such as lameness, some ‘iceberg diseases’ as well as parasite burden.

The range of results in forage analyses 2023 was discussed, and forage analysis for an indoor system was actively encouraged to correctly balance up supplementary feed. Equally, the protein intake from spring grass was recognised in the later lambing flocks.

Metabolic profiles can be used on a sample of ewes (multiples, shearlings) 3 weeks before lambing to assess energy and protein intake. For the cost of a lamb or two, one can properly assess the ewe intake and whether it meets demands, with time to correct if necessary.

Farmers can easily measure colostrum quality with an inexpensive Brix refractometer (£20-£30). The target is over 26.5%. The first few ewes to lamb can be measured to see if feeding is on track, as well as measuring quality on spare colostrum to supplement other lambs. A sample of lambs can also be checked for colostrum intake with a visit from a vet tech at the start of lambing.

Whilst only half as good as ewe colostrum, many flocks at the meeting used some artificial colostrum with a huge range in quality of product. XL Premium Lamb Colostrum (identical to Immucol Platinum) is our our product of choicep,rosdeluecctteodf cbheociacues,eseitlepcrtoevdidbeesc5augsIegGit perorvfiededs 5wgheIgnGfepderatfetehde wrehpelancfeemdeant trhaeter.eMplanceymperondt urcatse.dMo annoyt meet the required 3gpIrgoGdupcetrsfdeoedn.ot meet the required 3g IgG per feed.

Getting mineral balance correct in the ewe around lambing with respect to macrominerals – calcium and magnesium is very important. Factors influencing milk fever in indoor and outdoor systems were discussed as well as evidence showing how supplementation of calcium can help immunity of lambs and growth rates. Microminerals (trace elements) interact closely and influence lamb vigour.

Most lamb growth takes place in the last 6 weeks. If lambs are born light or heavy, this has a significant impact on risk of mortality.

No flocks in the practice are routinely giving antibiotics to newborn lambs tocontrol disease. In addition to the discussion on colostrum, we also talked about hygiene to reduce watery mouth and joint ill. control disease. In addition to the discussion on colostrum, we also talked about hygiene to reduce watery mouth and joint ill.

Hygiene tips:

  • Clean storage of stomach tubes and use Milton as a disinfectant for tubes between lambs.
  • Keep ear tags and rubber rings in sealed boxes and dip in surgical spirit ahead of use.
  • Wear long gloves to lamb ewes so one does not to transfer Strep bacteria (that cause joint ill) from carrier ewes onto other tubes between lambs.
  • Use preparatory10% iodine dip not spray (will contain alcohol drying agent). Dip twice for indoor systems.

To read the full newsletter please follow this link: Spring 2024 – Sheep Newsletter