With NIWA forecasting a particularly unsettled spring, sheep and beef farmers are being reminded to remain vigilant and keep a close eye on weather forecasts.
Will Halliday, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Senior Biosecurity and Animal Welfare Advisor, says spring is traditionally unsettled and a time when sheep and beef farmers will be utilising shelter and ensuring their stock remain as well-fed as possible.
Windchill is a major threat to livestock welfare and lamb survival. The ambient temperature experienced by a newborn lamb depends on the air temperature and windchill which is directly determined by wind speed. The greater the windchill, the greater an animal’s heat loss.
Any type of shelter slows the wind speed and reduces windchill. Critical extra minutes of a lamb’s life may be gained by providing shelter during which time a ewe could return to her lamb after lambing and get it to suckle.
This shelter may include trees, hedges, bushes, tussocks or rocks, although topography, slope, aspect and microclimate also play a role and some paddocks can be sheltered without any vegetation.
Multiple lambs typically result in lighter lambs. These lambs are more vulnerable to heat loss as they have lower fat reserves than heavier lambs and a higher surface area to bodyweight ratio, increasing heat loss.
Providing shelter for ewes known to be carrying multiple lambs should be a priority both to protect the ewes before lambing and give lambs a better chance of survival once born.
In extreme weather, even well-fed, well bonded lambs may succumb to extreme cold and weak lambs can be given a 20% mix of Dextrose (Dextrose differs from table sugar and can be sourced from homebrew shops or supermarkets) directly into the abdomen. This can give the lamb the energy boost it needs to survive.
Orphan lambs are inevitable, irrespective of the weather, and there are a number of resources on rearing orphan lambs on the B+LNZ website.
Slinks are inevitable and farmers are reminded these should be stored for collection in a covered receptacle inside the farm gate.
- Growing great lambs guide: https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/PDF/growing-great-lambs
- Shelter factsheet: https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/PDF/shelter-maintaining-welfare-and-productivity-sheep-and-cattle-drystock-farms
- Artificial lamb rearing: Managing abomasal bloat factsheet: https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/PDF/artificial-lamb-rearing-managing-abomasal-bloat
- NZAGBIZ calf and lamb rearing guide book: https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/PDF/nzagbiz-calf-and-lamb-rearing-guide-book
- Reviving newborn lambs: https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/PDF/reviving-newborn-lambs