Covid-19 (Coronavirus) – an update for our clients

Limited supplies of Spectam this year

January 6, 2022

As many of you will be aware from the farming press, there is a limited supply of Spectam available this year. This is the only licensed product available for the prevention of watery mouth in lambs. Firstly, DON’T PANIC. We do have some stocks of Spectam available and we are able to use other products licensed in farm animals if these stocks run out. Spectam will be being allocated proportionally based on your use in previous years, with any requirements above this being met by other products.

This will not, however, include the antibiotic tablets licensed in small animals which were historically used. These do not have food residue data for all the ingredients contained within them and therefore cannot be used safely in farm animals. But don’t fear, there are other oral solutions available which can be!

Whatever the product, it is important to be aware that we should only be using these products in a targeted manner and treating every single lamb at birth is not acceptable. It is therefore really important to address the following points on farm to reduce the need for antibiotics in lambs.

Colostrum

Lambs are born with no antibodies and the only way to gain protection from infections is by absorbing these antibodies from good quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth.

Lambs should receive colostrum within 4-6 hours of birth and should receive 50ml/kg per feed and 200ml/kg within the first 24hrs of life. Be aware that lambs that have assisted births or are of low body weight are more likely to struggle and should be more carefully monitored. These lambs might be targeted for antibiotic treatment as they are more at risk.

The antibodies that colostrum contains can only be absorbed from the gut in newborn lambs so it is essential that they receive enough during this period. This ability starts to reduce from 6 hours after birth and is gone by 24 hours. The colostrum from the ewe will always contain a lot more antibodies than any powdered colostrum supplement so always try to milk out the ewe first. If this isn’t possible, try other freshly lambed ewes (by 24 hours after lambing, there are very few of the important antibodies left in the colostrum) or use any reserves of frozen colostrum you have available. Always remember to carefully defrost frozen stores, never use a microwave as you’ll destroy the antibodies we’re working hard to provide!

Colostrum can be kept in the fridge for up to 7 days and frozen for up to 6 months. Always remember to milk out ewes with clean hands or wearing gloves and into clean containers.

Hygiene

Ensuring lambs are born into a clean environment and aren’t challenged by lots of bugs soon after birth makes bacterial infections such as watery mouth much less likely.

As well as mucking out and disinfecting lambing pens between ewes, also consider the cleanliness of bottle feeding/tubing equipment and ensure they are cleaned and sterilised between lambs. Ensure ewes have clean fleeces and udders by providing plenty of bedding to ensure lambs don’t ingest bacteria when suckling. Often cases of watery mouth don’t appear till later on in the lambing period when the disease challenge is higher and it is likely that most farms won’t need to use antibiotics for the first lot of lambs born.

Ewe nutrition

For ewes to produce good quality colostrum, they need to be in a good body condition score and be receiving good nutrition. Body condition scoring during pregnancy is therefore vitally important. Separating ewes according to scanning results will help manage condition and you should aim for ewes to maintain body condition score 3-3.5 from around 6 weeks before lambing. Blood sampling for nutritional profiles in the 2-3 weeks before lambing starts can be a very useful way of ‘asking the ewes’ what they think of the diet and how well it is preparing them for lambing and colostrum production.

Please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss any of these points further. We are always happy to discuss individual circumstances and advise on the best way to target antibiotic use on your farm.

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