Posted By: Bibby - Farm Vet

Talking Sheep And the prevalence of Schmallenberg

Whilst on my visits I have been having several discussions about clients imminent lambing. 

 I’ve had frequent conversations about the prevalence of Schmallenberg following on from some of the earlier lambers and spring calvers reporting cases of deformed lambs and calves. Schmallenberg is a viral infection of ruminants and camelids that affects the nervous system  of the unborn animal, as a result we can see deformed limbs, which can make delivery difficult, often resulting in damage to the dam. If you are struggling to lamb a ewe, it is worth remembering we have facilities at the practice where you can bring the ewe straight to us, saving you the cost of a call out fee, we have  a fixed fee for a sheep caesareans to help with economic considerations If you have any deformed lambs born. APHA are gathering information on Schmallenberg so will test these lambs free of charge. Please discuss with the practice about arranging this. 

In addition sheep farmers are being encouraged to fill in this survey Click here to help understand the impact of Schmallenberg on the national flock. 

Fat Hogg trade is currently very agreeable! Prices in market at the beginning of March peaked at 368p/kg. Hopefully this trade continues, and we can maximize profits on our 2024 lamb crop.Spectam an oral antibiotic was used routinely by many sheep producers, to prophylactically dose all lambs at birth as an aid to reducing the chances of developing E.coli infections such as watery mouth. In 2022 Spectam was withdrawn from the market, it was certainly considered by many farmers a nerve-racking time – would this have a negative effect on lamb mortality? A study assisted by AHDB found no link between antibiotic usage and improved health and productively in lambs. 

One of the ways of reducing the risk of a lamb developing Watery Mouth is to ensure that lambs receive adequate colostrum. Much like we see in the cattle sector there is considerable variation in the degree of Failure of Passive Transfer (a measure as to whether a lamb has had enough colostrum) in lambs. One study found that 14% of clinically normal lambs demonstrated some failure of passive transfer (FPT), whilst 46% of lambs dying of natural causes between 24hours and 5 weeks of age had FPT. 

FPT is a significant risk of death in lambs, 45% of lambs with FPT died before 3 weeks of age, whereas only 5% of lambs with adequate passive transfer died before 3 weeks of age. 

What can we do to reduce the risk of FPT and subsequent increased risk of death in our lambs. We can ensure that we optimise our chances of our ewes producing sufficient colostrum in the first place. 

– Ensuring our ewes are in good BCS before lambing, appropriate nutrition means that a ewe has sufficient energy and protein to produce sufficient colostrum, it will also mean optimum placental development for good sized lambs. 

– Inadequate pre lambing nutrition (protein and energy) results in reduced colostrum yield and quality, it also reduces the mothering ability of the ewe. 

– It’s important that if we are giving our lambs colostrum, we give them enough. Lambs should receive at least 10% of their body weight in the first 24 hours. We should give them 50ml/kg BW per feed to ensure sufficient colostrum is given. For example, a typically 5kg single needs at least 500ml in the first 24hours but can handle 250ml in an initial feed. 

If you wanted to review your ewe feeding, we could blood sample 10 animals around 3 weeks before lambing and assess BCS. The bloods would indicate whether Energy and or Proteinevels were adequate. If you were interested, then we utilise your Animal Health and Welfare Funding to pay for your visit

Vet Bibby

Other Articles


Search through our previous blog posts by month.

View All

Feel free to contact us for any advice you may need

Shepton Veterinary Group Limited
Allyn Saxon Drive
Shepton Mallet BA4 5QH

©2024 Shepton Veterinary Group Ltd., All rights reserved.
Privacy PolicyTerms & ConditionsCookie Policy