Farmers should re-consider the practise of skinning lambs when it comes to fostering at lambing time.
This was the message from vet Harriet Fuller, speaking during an Eblex teleconference, who said the method of skinning lambs to encourage their adoption by foster ewes seemed to have taken a decline in recent years.
“People are maybe more tempted to use lamb adopter crates, but these can be detrimental to the ewe and lamb’s welfare if they are kept in there for a long period of time.
“Although it may take a little longer to skin a lamb compared to using a foster crate, the result is often far more effective.
The ewe will often accept the lamb quickly, putting minimal stress on both the ewe and foster lamb.
“If a ewe has not accepted the foster lamb within the first 24-48 hours, it generally is not going to accept it properly at all.
“I would strongly encourage those who do not skin dead lambs already to definitely consider it.”
Ms Fuller explained initially smell was the main bonding mechanism between ewe and lamb. As time went on the ewe started to recognise the bleat of the lamb and vice versa, but scent was the crucial bonding factor at the beginning.
Always wear disposable arm-length gloves when assisting a ewe to avoid introducing infection in to the ewe and for your own safety. Several of the infections which cause stillbirths and abortions in sheep are infectious to humans too.
Inject ewes which have needed assistance with long-acting penicillin. Ms Fuller also recommended giving an anti-inflammatory injection to reduce inflammation and help make the ewe feel better. Ms Fuller said: “Even after a difficult lambing, the ewe will soon be up and feeding much more quickly if treated properly. If this is something you are not currently doing it is worth asking your vet about.”