Colostrum is often described as "liquid gold" and as the fuel for life. One secret to rearing healthy lambs, and for future production, is to make sure each lamb receives enough colostrum. As a guide 50ml per lamb in the first 6 hours, 200ml in the first 24 hours, should ensure adequate antibody absorption to provide the immunity needed for the first few weeks of life.
Born with no antibodies, a failure to consume sufficient colostrum in the first 24 hours will leave a lamb with little ability to fight infection in early life.
Research has shown lower levels of colostrum results in poorer growth and increased mortality. Ensuring all lambs receive enough good quality colostrum is the single most important factor in reducing losses from hypothermia and disease.
The key to good quality colostrum starts during pregnancy. Ewes must be appropriately vaccinated and receive adequate nutrition in order to mount an immune response needed to manufacture antibodies in colostrum and remain healthy themselves. Good condition prior to lambing will reduce the incidence of pregnancy toxaemia and encourage good colostrum quality and yield. Pay attention to minerals such as selenium, zinc and vitamin E as these are vital components for good immune function.
If colostrum is short the alternatives include:
- Foster ewe
- Frozen ewe colostrum, thawed slowly below 55 degrees Celcius (not microwaved!)
- A high-quality colostrum replacer such as Lamcol Gold Colostrum
- To keep your lambs growing well, make sure they receive plenty of good quality milk replacer such as Wynngold Lamlac