What's the most important thing that lambs need for a healthy start?
Colostrum, colostrum, colostrum! It is the first milk produced by mothers. It contains high levels of energy and nutrients that are vital for a newborn's health and performance. Also, the ewe's antibodies (not antibiotics) are passed on to the lamb through the colostrum. These antibodies act against infectious agents. Watery mouth (a common lamb illness) can often be avoided if a lamb receives enough colostrum as a newborn.
When the farm guys (Mike, Carl and Adrian) come across new lambs in the lambing barn, they make sure that the lambs receive colostrum from their dam and that the ewes teats are stripped (milked by hand to remove any wax build-up in the teat canal).
If a ewe has no or too little colostrum, it is supplemented with colostrum from another ewe, cow, goat or a colostrum alternative such as Lamb & Kid Kolostral. This colostrum is tubed into or fed via bottle (depending on lambs ability to suck).
What else does colostrum provide aside from passive resistance to disease early on? Ever wonder why a lamb seems to fall behind the others in terms of growth? If you look back at its history, it may not have received enough colostrum. It provides the boost a lamb needs for a healthy start. Over the years we've noticed the lambs that didn't receive enough colostrum usually became the runts or ne'er-do-wells.
For more information on colostrum, Iowa State University produced this fact sheet.
Any other newborn lamb protocols from Premier?
While the lambs are still young, we dip their navels in Triodine using a Navel Cup. This dries out the umbilical cord and aids in preventing navel joint ill.
We match lambs to ewes—no, not by color—by dam and lamb(s). The ewes are numbered by order of lambing. Their lamb(s) receives the same number as the ewe. Numbers are made with Super Sprayline but Si-Ro-Mark can be used as well. We also use a color scheme to denote twins, triplets and singles. Single receive blue marks, twins/green and triplets/orange.