Throughout the lambing season, it is imperative that farmers ensure new-born lambs are receiving plenty of milk to aid them in their growth and development.

During the build-up to lambing we increase the feed we give to pregnant ewes by adding concentrate, sugarbeet and mineral buckets to their usual diet of fresh pasture. The additional feed supplied before lambing helps promote higher levels of milk production, and it is equally important to ensure that ewes are adequately fed after lambing in order to keep producing plenty of milk for their new-born lambs. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for some ewes within the flock to suffer from Mastitis even despite being adequately fed and cared for as with the rest of the flock.

Mastitis is the term for a bacterial infection of the udder, and occurs when the infection enters the udder through injured teats. It is critical that lambs receive colostrum during the first 24 hours of life in order to ensure adequate absorption of colostral antibodies.

Antibodies are large protein molecules that can cross the intestinal wall and enter the blood stream of the lamb only during the first 24 to 36 hours of life. Absorption of these antibodies is most efficient during the first few hours after birth.

It is therefore of paramount importance when lambs are born to check the milk supply of its mother. Like many other farms, we bank additional colostrum at home by freezing it to use in cases where a lamb is unable to receive enough colostrum from a ewe.

It is critical that lambs receive colostrum within six hours of being born for maximal absorption of colostral antibodies to occur. As well as receiving colostrum it is also crucial that lambs receive plenty of milk in the first few hours of being born and once again we do this by providing bottled milk to any lambs whose mothers have yet to produce enough milk.

In most cases ewes with low milk production immediately after lambing will come into milk later on and as long as lambs are topped up with bottled milk a couple of times a day in the early stages of their lives, their bottled feeding can be gradually reduced as they become accustomed to receiving milk naturally from their mothers.

This week also saw our first set of quads delivered. Triplets and quads usually require additional care when lambing and it is important in some cases to step in and help deliver the lambs safely, due to the increased stress for the ewe that can come when giving birth to multiple lambs. Over the years we have had many triplets but very rarely have we seen ewes give birth to four lambs. Thankfully in this case with a little help for the ewe, we were able to safely deliver all four lambs

However the difficulties of producing enough milk to rear four lambs can result in some lambs struggling to receive enough milk and becoming weaker than others. To combat this with quads and also triplets we often take the biggest lamb off its mother and adopt it on to another ewe that has given birth to a single lamb.

With ewes having two quarters to their udder, most farmers prefer a set of strong twins to multiple births. We will adopt a quad or triplet lamb onto a ewe to ensure both lambs receive a plentiful supply of milk. A ewe will usually take an adopted lamb if introduced as she lambs her single, and as long as we keep a close eye in such cases adoption proves to be a very successful form of helping ewes rear as many new-born lambs as possible.