Mortality in ewes and lambs during the lambing period is the largest cause of lost production and the greatest expense to sheep enterprises annually. Lamb survival is key to success.
- Peri-natal mortality includes a combination of mis-mothering, starvation, stillbirth and dystocia, and generally occur within 3 days of birth
- Birthweight is the largest determinant of lamb survival and is strongly linked to maternal nutrition
- ANP have identified scanning, animal health, feeding to requirements, mineral supplementation and lambing paddock selection as critical control points to boost lamb survival
Cost of poor lamb survival during lambing
Mortality during lambing is generally diagnosed as peri-natal mortality, dystocia, hypocalcaemia and pregnancy toxaemia which combined account for almost $1 billion in lost production to the industry annually.
At the individual farm level, it is not foreign to see scanning rates of 130% to 140% result in weaning percentages of 80% and 90%, with the average lamb producing operation experiencing lamb mortalities of 10% to 35%.1
Interestingly, when investigating the cause of peri-natal mortalities, a combination of mismothering, starvation, stillbirth and dystocia was believed to account for 55% of lamb losses. Single born lambs were more likely to die from dystocia and stillbirth, while twin lambs were more likely to die from starvation, mismothering and a birth injury.2
Birthweight linked to lamb survival
Although there are many variables that may lead to mortality in pregnant ewes and newborn lambs, birth weight is the largest determinant of lamb survival, and is strongly linked to maternal nutrition.3 Similarly, hypocalcaemia and pregnancy toxaemia are metabolic diseases arising from nutritional deficiencies that can be corrected with effective supplementation.
Lambing critical control points
ANP have identified the 110-day period from 7 weeks pre-lambing until 6 weeks post-lambing as the period where a significant amount of upside can be generated in a sheep breeding operation.
On the back of this, ANP’s technical team have highlighted five critical control points that offer opportunity to significantly improve lambing results.
Note: ANP understand that each production system is different. It is recommended for producers to adopt Critical Control Point Actions where they are operationally and economically viable.
Although incremental improvement at selected control points can have a positive effect on lambing results, all control points are interrelated and compounding, and managing all five can generate substantial improvement.
StockMins-EweLamLac can boost lamb survival
StockMins-EweLamLac is a weatherproof, granular, loose-lick supplement designed support pregnant and recently lambed ewes when essential minerals, vitamins and trace elements are in high demand.
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For more information call the AusFarm Nutrition Team on 0412 048 055
- Priority list of endemic diseases for the red meat industry – 2022 update. Meat and Livestock Australia, 2022.
- Refshauge G, Brien FD, Hinch GN, van de Ven R (2016) Neonatal lamb mortality: factors associated with the death of Australian lambs. Animal Production Science 56, 726–735. doi:10.1071/AN15121.
- Oldham CM, Thompson AN, Ferguson MB, Gordon DJ, Kearney GA, Paganoni BL (2011) The birthweight and survival of Merino lambs can be predicted from the profile of liveweight change of their mothers during pregnancy. Animal Production Science 51, 776–783. doi:10.1071/ AN10155.