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PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Lamb and kidding seasons are upon us, and producers should do everything
possible to reduce losses during the neonatal period (first eight days of life) as
that is when 84 per cent of all lamb deaths occur, says Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative
Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
The causes of many lamb and kid deaths in the neonatal period are easy to prevent,
says Dr. Fernandez. A Wisconsin study reported that 44 percent of lambs lost at birth
were stillborn. This usually results from an infection, such as toxoplasmosis, chalmydiosis
or leptospirosis, which is often caused by poor hygiene.
Make sure the paddock where females are housed is clean and free of excessive manure
build-up, advises Dr. Fernandez. If you have a large number of stillborns, check with
your veterinarian. Be sure your flock or herd is properly vaccinated 30 days before
lambing or kidding begins.
Another reason for a high number of stillborns might be pregnancy toxemia, also called
ketosis, which is most common in overconditioned ewes and does. But, ketosis can also
be a problem in thin ones, too, so do not overfeed or underfeed. Remember that newborns
from underfed females tend to have lighter birth weights. Lambs smaller than seven
pounds have higher death rates than heavier ones. Ewes and does should have a body
condition score of 2.5 to 3 on a 5-point scale or 5 to 6 on a 9-point scale, says
Nearly 9 percent of lamb deaths result from a difficult birth, called dystocia. Kids
and lambs undergoing difficult birth may not get enough oxygen while they were being
born, may have gotten fluid in their lungs or may be exhausted. Exhausted newborns
do not have the energy to keep themselves warm or to get up and nurse.
Be ready to assist ewes or does within an hour after the birth process begins and
be sure all the equipment you need is clean before lambing or kidding season begins,
advises Dr. Fernandez. Do not breed smaller females to larger framed males. Larger
fetuses have more trouble being born than smaller ones. Lambs over 13 pounds tend
to have more trouble being born, yet another reason to avoid overfeeding your animals.
The Wisconsin study reported that 5.8 percent of the lambs lost suffocated because
the amniotic sac did not break. Being prepared and available can help reduce losses.
Exposure is another major cause of perinatal losses. Nearly as many newborns (8.4
percent) died of exposure as died after a difficult birth. Newborns are wet and don’t
have a heavy layer of fat, hair or wool to keep them warm on cold, wet days. Putting
does or ewes in a simple shelter that will keep newborns dry can alleviate these losses,
especially if wet or extremely cold weather is expected in the next couple of days.
Some causes cannot be avoided. For example, lambs born in large litters had higher
death rates; ewes lambing for the first time had higher lamb losses as well.
Tips on managing perinatal losses are: keep paddocks clean, maintain healthy weights,
be prepared to assist with birth, provide shelter from extreme weather and keep an
eye on higher risk newborns. “These simple steps could save nearly 7.5 lambs or kids
out of every 100 born. And, at $1 per pound, per lamb and $2 for kids, you can have
an extra $700-$800 next year, says Dr. Fernandez.
More on body condition scoring, feeding ewes to maximize reproductive success, the
basics of goat reproduction and managing the kidding season can be found on the University
of Arkansas Cooperative Extension website http://www.uaex.uada.edu/publications/default.aspx. Once there, enter goat reproduction in the search area, or search for FSA9607, “Introduction
to Goat Reproduction,” www.uaex.uada.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-9607.pdf.
By Carol SandersUAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences(870) 575-7238, email@example.com