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Lambs are born with no antibodies and rely on the ‘passive transfer’ of antibodies from the ewe to the lamb via colostrum. This must take place within the first few hours of life, as the ability of the lamb to absorb these antibodies rapidly declines after birth. Importance of colostrum in lambs A strong, healthy lamb, up and sucking within 15 minutes of birth has a 90–95% chance of still being alive 90 days later. Recent surveys showed that 74% of flocks had been supplemented with less than the industry recommendation. If insufficient antibodies are absorbed, lambs are at a significantly increased risk of death and disease during the pre- weaning period. This is called partial passive transfer (PPT) or failure of passive transfer (FPT) if no antibodies are absorbed. The study also found no association between oral antibiotic usage and health/production benefits in lambs. Risk factors for partial or failure of passive transfer include: ·Assistance with colostrum feeding – not supplementing with enough colostrum ·Ewes not at target body condition ·Inadequate pre-lambing nutrition (protein and energy) results in reduced colostrum yield and quality. It also reduces the mothering ability of the ewe Taking sufficient colostrum is vital to provide the lamb with essential immunoglobulins and to protect against clostridial and other diseases, depending on the ewe’s vaccination status. Optimum pre-lambing nutrition is essential. Not only does this allow the ewe to produce good quality colostrum, but it also provides her with the nutrients she needs for full placental development through to a good lambing. Quantity and Quickly Make sure lambs receive 50 ml/kg of colostrum as soon as possible after birth and within 4–6 hours. In 24 hours, a newborn lamb must receive the equivalent of 200 ml/kg body weight in colostrum. Example: a 5 kg lamb needs 1 litre of colostrum in the first day of life. After six hours, the lamb’s ability to absorb the immunoglobulins into its bloodstream has reduced, which is why it is important to get colostrum in quickly. The primary immunoglobulin in colostrum is immunoglobulin G (IgG). Its concentration in milk decreases rapidly after parturition, at approximately 3.3 mg/ml per hour, diminishing to zero by about 23 hours post-lambing. Quality Lambs fed adequate quality colostrum do not succumb to watery mouth. Colostrum from the ewe is preferred, to provide immunity to farm-specific diseases. Alternative to ewe’s colostrum, in order of preference: 1.Colostrum from another ewe in the flock 2.Pooled cows’ colostrum 3.Artificial colostrum Artificial colostrum is designed as a supplement, not a replacement for ewes’ colostrum and should only be used as a last resort. Colostrum management for lambs Storage, defrosting and heating Fresh colostrum must be used as soon as possible and within one hour or stored in the fridge or freezer. Colostrum will keep in the fridge (4°C) for up to seven days and it can be frozen (-18 to -20°C) for use within six months. Top tips: ·Harvest with clean hands or gloves and use clean containers ·Label containers with the date of collection ·Store in small amounts for ease of defrosting (it cannot be refrozen) ·Defrost and heat in a warm water bath – using a microwave or boiling water will damage the antibodies ·Do not heat above 40ᵒC as temperatures above this will cause deterioration in the protein in the colostrum, destroying the antibodies Torch Lambing Club What work is included? Lambings Sick/downer ewes Caesareans (excl. surgical pack charge) Entropion Post-mortems Sick lambs Prolapses (excl. epidural charge) When is Lambing Club? 08:30 – 17:30 Monday to Friday 08:30 – 12:30 Saturday Work undertaken outside these hours is chargeable at a discounted rate for club members. The Lambing Club covers work carried out over any consecutive three month period. To sign up or for more information, call 01271 879516 and speak to one of our team