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How Close are Your Scanning and Lambing Rates?

08 January 2015

ANALYSIS - Pregnant ewes need managing correctly to ensure recent or upcoming scanning percentages are realised as healthy lambs born.

Losses in the uterus and in the lambing shed are the two key factors producers can look to affect at scanning, according to Matt Haslam of Benchmark Animal Health.

His message is that once scanned, sheep should be managed according to their specific needs through the rest of winter.

“Figures from EBLEX suggest that approximately 30 per cent of total lamb losses in the UK flock occurs between scanning and lambing. After scanning, you know what kind of lambing to expect, so you can take stock and plan for the next three months,” says Matt.

“Its all about taking measures to ensure lambing rates are as close as possible to scanning rates.”

"Managing infectious disease and implementing appropriate nutrition programmes can help minimise foetal losses", says Matt. "Lambing shed protocols, neonatal care, colostrum management, early feeding and hygiene are instrumental once the lamb is born"

"Scanning is a great point for farmers to take stock, think back, retrace steps and ensure that no vaccines have been missed"
Matt Haslam, Benchmark Animal Health

Infectious Diseases

“Enzootic abortion of Ewes (EAE), accounting for roughly 50 per cent of all infectious abortions and Toxoplasmosis (roughly 25 per cent), are the two most common causes of abortion in the UK sheep flock. It is essential that farmers work with their vets to reach a diagnosis if they encounter an abortion outbreak.

"Effective vaccines for both diseases are available, Toxovax (MSD Animal Health) against Toxoplasmosis, and Cevac Chlamydia (Ceva), Enzovax (MSD Animal Health) and Mydiavac (Benchmark Animal Health) are available to help control Enzootic Abortion.”

“Mydiavac is the only EAE vaccine that can be administered to pregnant ewes providing they are more than 4 weeks after tupping and is even licensed in the face of an outbreak.”

"Scanning is a great point for farmers to take stock, think back, retrace steps and ensure that no vaccines have been missed, particularly in purchased ewe-lambs.”

Feeding and Scanning

“During pregnancy, events that precipitate stress can cause lambing losses," Laura Higham, FAI Farms

Laura Higham, veterinary surgeon at FAI (Food Animal Initiative) Farms, states that nutrition and maintaining body condition score is key to ensure sufficient placenta development.

She adds that the mid-pregnancy period is key, with body condition supporting placenta development, the late growth of the lamb and the onset of parturition.

“The lamb is small but placental growth happens now,” says Laura. “It’s what we are feeding the ewes for.”

“Ewes should ideally maintain body condition of around 3 during this period. Modest losses of half a condition score can only be tolerated in ewes of body condition 3-3.5 without risking lambing performance.”

Another priority at this time is to minimise stress.

“Avoid handling sheep unless necessary,” advises Laura. “During pregnancy, events that precipitate stress can cause lambing losses.”

However, scanning is recommended as this allows for nutrition to be planned in late pregnancy and preparations to be made in terms of the lambing shed and labour.

Scanning has a two week window 12 to 14 weeks after tupping, which for the FAI flock in Oxford shire is in January.

As part of ensuring success at lambing, ewes should be maintaining a body condition score of 3, advises Laura Higham, veterinary surgeon at FAI Farms, Oxford.

“Scanning allows feed to be planned appropriately across the flock,” says Laura. “Supplementing with different rates should begin around two months before lambing.”

A further benefit is that scanning may reveal empty ewes and possible losses, which at high levels may indicate abortion pathogens are affecting the flock, adds Laura.

Treatment Options

In the face of enzootic abortion, Laura advises that Mydiavac can be used to reduce losses in the face of infection.

Optimal timing for Mydiavac is at least four weeks before tupping, but all is not lost by mid-pregnancy.

“If you’ve missed the boat on administering an enzootic abortion product pre-tupping and you want to vaccinate, a good practical time to do so is January, at least four weeks after tupping.”

Looking ahead, Laura adds that Mydiavac can also be used before or during lambing if enzootic abortion is expected to be linked with losses, or in the face of an abortion storm.

Other considerations through the winter are lameness and liver fluke, with Laura suggesting a Triclabendazole product to act on all stages of the fluke.

She adds that FAI’s lowland location near Oxford means Fluke is a priority on the farm, and foot rot can be an issue. Laura recommends a foot rot vaccine, used in conjunction with the five-point plan for lameness, developed by FAI in partnership with MSD Animal Health.

Five Point Plan for Sheep Lameness

You can learn more about the five point plan by clicking here.

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms.

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