Sheep - Things to do this Month - June

SHEEP – for a March/April lambing flock:creep-feeder

  • Consider using moveable electric fencing to manage the ewes’ grass intake and ensure they always have a fresh bite ahead of them
  • Continue to treat lame sheep promptly, otherwise they may pass infection to their lambs – see the current (Summer) edition of ‘Practical Sheep Goats & Alpacas’ magazine for an in-depth article on managing and eradicating foot disease in your flock
  • Continue creep-feeding lambs (but beware of overfeeding and don’t give feed formulated for ewes to the lambs, especially ram lambs and wethers (castrated males), which can suffer from Urinary Calculi, or ‘stones’ in the urethra due to calcium in the feedstuff. If you’re raising rams, buy food specially formulated for male sheep)
  • Monitor ewes for mastitis every day, signs to look out for are: hungry lambs, ewes not letting lambs feed. The udder may be swollen on one quarter (side) and feel abnormally hot; the ewe will be off her food. In the latter stages of mastitis, the udder will be discoloured and will feel cold. The condition can develop at weaning and should be treated urgently to prevent permanent damage, or death of the ewe. Treatment will include antibiotic therapy, pain relief, re-hydration and a quick source of energy; so in the first instance call your vet to advise you on the relevant treatments.
  • Give lambs their 2nd vaccination against clostridial disease and pasturella (Heptavac-P - 6 weeks after their first vaccination)
  • Nematodirosis – this is caused by a very nasty parasite and can lead to high death rates in lambs (typically at around 6-12 weeks old), and due to its unique lifecycle CANNOT ALWAYS BE IDENTIFIED by faecal egg counting. Be advised by your vet regarding local risks and treat lambs without delay if advised to do so. If lambs are on ‘dirty’ pastures that carried lambs during the previous year, you may consider giving a prophylactic, or preventative drench (use a Group 1 – white drench containing Albendazole for Nematodirus, unless you suspect that other parasite species may also be present which may be resistant to this group). For regional early warning for Nematodirus visit:
  • By the age of about 10-12 weeks of age the lambs will start to pick up parasitic gut worms – signs to watch for are dirty backsides and a check in their growth. Carry out regular FECs (Faecal Egg Counts) on a regular basis (discuss frequency with your vet and formulate a farm-specific worming programme that takes into account seasonal and local threats)
  • Shearing – book your contractor (or book onto a BWMB course and train to shear yourself), and plan your handling system: pen sheep ready for shearing (preferably starve for 12 hours before); electricity supply for shearer; smooth-topped table for rolling fleeces; stand to support the wool sack
  • Treat shorn ewes, lambs and rams with ‘pour on’ product for flystrike protection – consider using an IGR (Insect Growth Regulator) with a 16-week persistence.
  • Fly-strike has been reported widely this year, much earlier than would normally be expected, so be on your guard and check sheep frequently (at least 2x per day). In addition to flies, be aware of other external parasites – even if you have treated with a long-acting IGR, you still need to keep alert.
  • For basic Performance Recording, weigh your lambs at 8 weeks – this will give you an indication of their inherent growth rate when compared with birth weights
  • Weaning – by the age of about 12 weeks the lambs will be eating plenty of grass and will be less reliant on the ewes’ milk; weaning usually takes place at around 16 weeks, but if your ewes are looking a bit poor following last winter (as many are this year), consider weaning the lambs a few weeks earlier. Plan your pasture management so that you can put lambs onto ‘clean’ ground with good grass to prevent a check in their growth. Put the ewes onto poorer pasture so that they ‘dry-off’ quickly.