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Vaccination Pre-Lambing Pivotal for Ewe Health and Lamb Protection


Pre-lambing is a critical time point in the sheep production calendar. It is important that you implement a comprehensive pre-lambing ewe animal health program in order to protect your ewes as well as their lambs and help get more lambs through to marking. Ewe vaccination pre-lambing is very important in order to ensure ewes have maximum immune protection at the point of lambing, but also to ensure that lambs are given the best kick-start in life. It is important that strong colostral antibody protection is passed from the ewe to the lamb in the first milk (colostrum).

Two Doses of Vaccine Plus Boosters are Essential

Figure 1. Vaccination principles to ensure animal antibody levels do not fall below the protective level.


Worm control

Minimizing parasite burdens in ewes pre-lambing is also critical to ensure optimal performance from both ewes and lambs. Given the summer rains we have experienced this year, worm burdens have been significant. We recommend doing a FEC to assist in deciding on the best drench program to protect your ewes when their immune system is most compromised. Contact your local Western Ag Animal Health Specialist to arrange a FEC.


Ewe nutrition

There is a significant correlation between ewe condition score and lamb birth weight and survival. Optimum condition score for single baring ewes is CS 3 and no more than CS 4 and twin baring ewes is CS 3.3. Optimal birth weight for lamb survival is between 4.5 and 5.5 kg. Survival decreases significantly if lambs weigh less than 4 kg or more than 6kg at birth as shown below (Figure 3).

Figure 2 & 3. Direct relationship between ewe condition at lambing and lamb survival as shown above.


Monitor feed on offer (FOO) and ensure both twin and single baring ewes energy requirements are being met. If supplementary feeding is required, we have a team of animal health specialists and a nutritionist who can assist you in looking at the best options available. Depending on the quality of feed available we can also assist you with a range of mineral supplements. Put twin baring ewes in the paddocks with the most amount of feed on offer. The ewe needs to stay at her birth site for 6 hours to bond with the lamb. If there is enough FOO she won’t have to move from the site, therefore increasing lamb survival rate. Good pasture length will also offer shelter for newborn lambs again increasing lamb survival rate. The ewe’s energy requirements during lactation skyrockets, especially for your multiple baring ewes. At the peak of lactation, a 60kg twin baring ewe requires 31.9mj of energy per day. Failure to meet these requirements will result in lower weight gains in lambs and a loss in condition score for the ewe which could impact both her wool production and compromise her ability to conceive at her next joining.


Metabolic Issues

Whilst prevention is always best, unfortunately there will always be ewes that are susceptible to metabolic issues such as pregnancy toxaemia, hypocalcaemia and hypomagnesia. Early detection and treatment will increase the ewe and lambs chance of survival.


For pre-lambing, we highly recommend having the following on offer so if the ewe starts showing signs of any metabolic issues you can treat her immediately; Ketol, 4 in 1 Flo Pack and spray marker. Treat the ewe and mark her so she is easy to identify and continue to treat her until all symptoms have subsided.

Our team of Animal Health (AH&G) Specialist across the Western AG branches are here to assist you in making the most out of your lamb production. With all the current and ongoing challenges, we understand that it is busy time for farming, and we want you to know we are just a SMS or phone call away if you need any advice. We are fully operational and can organise your farming requirements with collection or delivery options available.

Article produced by - Raquel Tyler, Western AG Ballarat/Gisborne

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