Problems with respiratory health in lambs are of considerable economic importance to the sheep industry.
Monitoring your flock
Monitoring your flock regularly has many lamb health benefits. A healthy lamb will:
Be active throughout most of the day
Have a warm nose
Have a rectal temperature 37.5 - 39oC
Not have any swollen joints
Keeping the respiratory tract healthy
To successfully manage respiratory health in lambs, a number of precautions can be taken.
Stress usually results in lower immunity, so avoid stressful situations whenever possible.
Good lamb vaccines are available. Passive immunity derived from sheep colostrum will last up to 6 weeks of age. Lambs should be vaccinated twice before passive immunity declines. Consult your vet to ensure lamb vaccinations to keep the lungs of your lambs healthy are carried out at the right moment.
Housing and ventilation
Avoid over-crowding. Avoid variations in temperature and humidity as much as possible and ensure sufficient ventilation. Avoid lambs sharing air space with older sheep once they have been weaned
Sheep colostrum contains high levels of antibodies that can improve respiratory health of lambs, particularly if the dams have been vaccinated. Breeding ewes require a primary course of two injections four to six weeks apart, followed by an annual booster "4-6" weeks before lambing. Ensure lambs drink enough sheep colostrum in the first 24-36 hours of life. Check if the ewe has sufficient colostrum. Monitor the lamb closely to make sure it nurses, and check if the stomach is full by palpating it.
Weaning stress results in suppression of the immune system. Reduce the amount of stress associated with weaning as much as possible:
- Do not mix lambs from different groups at the same time they are being weaned. - Move the ewes to a different pen/pasture and leave the lambs in the pen/pasture where they are at the moment they are being weaned. - Avoid other procedures that involve handling the animals, so for example, deworm them e few days before weaning rather than at weaning, do not trim their claws at weaning etc.
Mixing lambs from different sources
Transport stress and mixing may result in a suppression of the immune system. Animals with different immune status that are being mixed and transported to a new environment may require additional support to manage their respiratory health.
Overcrowding results in stress and reduces the airspace per animal. Avoid overcrowding and ensure optimal ventilation if lambs are being housed indoors.
Managing periods when lambs require extra support
On a normal sheep farm, there are certain periods lambs need extra support to manage their respiratory health which can be identified beforehand. During these periods, it may be beneficial to improve breathing and stimulate the clearance of the respiratory tract.
How to maintain healthy airways for proper breathing?
Unfortunately, a prevention program doesn´t always work. It is therefore important to identify animals that are coughing or have a runny nose and take action. Once the first animal starts coughing, it may be beneficial to improve breathing and stimulate the clearance of the respiratory tract of all animals within the flock.