Stopping disease before it happens

Watery Mouth is a common disease in lambs, especially when lambing indoors in sheds. Very young lambs do not yet have working ‘acid’ stomachs so any E coli bacteria they swallow rapidly multiply and get into their circulation.  The bacteria release toxins, which can eventually lead to death of the lamb.

For this reason, use of a preventative oral antibiotic drench has become commonplace where there is a high risk – such as during a busy lambing period when it is impossible to completely clean out and disinfect lambing pens between occupants.

However, adequate intake of colostrum shortly after birth has been shown to significantly reduce incidence of Watery Mouth, both through transfer of antibodies from the mother and unblocking of the faecal ‘plug’ in the lamb which allows the quicker passage of waste through the lamb’s system.

In an effort to reduce reliance on a preventative antibiotic drench, some sheep farmers are now putting extra measures in place to ensure sufficient colostrum is given to every lamb despite the pressures of a hectic lambing shed. They are focusing efforts on smaller, weaker twin and triplet lambs and ensuring all are fed the required quantity of colostrum within the crucial first 24-hour period of life.  In addition, farmers are working with their vets to test the quality of the colostrum for immunoglobulin levels, and lamb blood samples to ensure they have had sufficient quantities.

Back-up supplies of colostrum are harvested from milky older ewes with single lambs and frozen until needed.

This strategy doesn’t eliminate the need for oral antibiotics to prevent Watery Mouth, but it can cut use by 80-90% on farms where only the most at-risk lambs, such as low birth-weight triplets or twins born in challenging conditions, might be given a preventative dose.

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Farm Antibiotics