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How UK farmers can protect lambs from preventable diseases this spring

With reports that some flocks are carrying 20 to 40 per cent fewer lambs than last year, protecting lambs from preventable disease threats this spring could be crucial. 

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Scanners have reported variable results this winter and while it looks like lamb numbers may be down nationallaly this year, good weather could help maximise the number of lambs reared, says Phillipa Page, from the sheep veterinary consultantancy Flock Health.

 

"Sheep producers simply cannot afford to do is lose more lambs to easily preventable diseases," she says.

 

"Farmers facing a lower lamb crop must not react to a depressed productivity challenge by skimping on essential vaccinations that will protect young lambs against diseases that can cause significant mortalities.

 

“Clostridial diseases and pasteurellosis are both silent killers. Typically, the first sign is a dead lamb and sometimes losses can be catastrophic.”

 

“In an era when proven and highly cost-effective vaccines are available, no lamb should die from a clostridial disease.”

 


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Because it is impossible to control the multiple and varied ‘trigger’ factors for clostridial disease and pasteurellosis in lambs, like a sudden change in the weather, change in diet or parasite infection, vaccinating newborns against these is essential.

 

“Provided a ewe has been fully vaccinated against these two key disease threats, the colostrum her lambs receive shortly after birth will give short-lived protection against pasteurellosis and clostridial diseases like pulpy kidney, braxy, blackleg and tetanus.

 

"This so-called passive immunity only lasts for so long though, so lambs must be vaccinated themselves from three weeks of age.”

 

Key points - Clostridial diseases and pasteurellosis

  • Clostridial diseases and pasteurellosis are real threats in unvaccinated lambs.
  • Colostrum from vaccinated ewes gives disease protection to lambs, provided they receive enough in the first 24 hours, but only lasts for a limited period.
  • Vaccination of newborn lambs from three weeks of age will protect them from the main clostridial diseases and pasteurellosis.
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