Genetic improvement and breeding programmes play an important role in flock performance, but to get the best out of any animal still requires good management and stockmanship.
Recording and reviewing flock performance on an ongoing basis is a great tool for understanding whether any improvements or changes need to be made to management and in what direction genetic improvement should be targeted.
With lambing now complete for most now is a good time of year to look at how the flock has performed. Lamb losses, particularly when they occur are a good indicator of any problems.
Stillbirths, poor vigour, watery mouth and joint ill are all potential indicators of changes which might be needed to feeding or health treatments. Ideally all losses should be recorded, but any information is useful. An EID reader and recorder can provide a useful tool, but so can good old fashioned pen and paper.
Even when losses haven’t been recorded individually there is still a great deal of merit in noting any general issues which occurred and speaking to your vet about how lambing went. It’s always worth getting this done while the memories are still fresh.
While most lamb losses occur at or around lambing further losses throughout the season should also be recorded. Any clusters of deaths or unexplained losses should be investigated.
Ewe losses represent a high cost to any system and again can help pick up any areas for improvement. Vaccinations and parasite treatments all need to be looked at from a preventative perspective while infections can be avoided through disease control, hygiene and appropriate and sustainable antibiotic use.
Vet advice when selecting and using antibiotics is vital with increasing pressure on their use as ‘whole flock’ treatments. RUMA is a UK organisation which promotes best practice in the use of medicines on farm and has highlighted the need to avoid ‘routine preventive use of antibiotics where such disease challenge can be prevented by better husbandry and farm management’.
It’s not just the UK where lamb losses can be improved upon and for something a bit different click here for a link which advises Australian sheep producers on reducing their losses. There is also an interesting factsheet produced for sheep farmers in America and this can be read by clicking here.