Priming ewes for a successful lambing is one of the key management tasks to make sure their colostrum is as good as it can be.

“Ewes must be in the best health possible for the last six weeks of pregnancy when 70% of foetal growth takes place. Get it wrong and you may have to cope with poor lamb survival rates, low birth weights and inferior quality ewe colostrum,” says Dr Kat Baxter-Smith, of MSD Animal Health.

“Colostrum quality is key to lamb survival and is quantified by the amount of IgGs present – these are the large molecules of protein that provide antibody protection. But they will only be absorbed if colostrum is the first feed.”

She said that it is important to feed ewes sufficient energy and protein in the run up to lambing. Group and feed ewes according to their scanning results and condition score. Getting the mineral balance right is important too, so ask your nutritionist for advice.

Furthermore, she added that flockmasters should consider asking their vet to take blood samples from ewes 4-6 weeks pre-lambing just to make sure their diet is delivering the required energy and protein balance.”

Colostrum priming is about making sure ewes receive their booster vaccinations in late pregnancy.

“Ewe condition and nutrition are both absolutely key pre-lambing, but so is good vaccination practice and this means making sure all in-lamb ewes receive their clostridia and pasteurella booster vaccination 4-6 weeks before lambing,” said Dr Baxter-Smith.

“This will increase the levels of antibodies in her colostrum against devastating early life disease threats for lambs such as lamb dysentery, pulpy kidney and pasteurellosis. If her lambs then receive sufficient amounts of this fortified colostrum during the first 1-2 days of life, they will gain protection against these key disease threats.

“Good colostral transfer is essential to protect lambs through their early life and protect them up to the stage – from three weeks of age – that they can be vaccinated for optimal protection through the growing period,” she says.