Scours, navel ill, joint ill, and environmental mastitis are all infections commonly linked to indoor lambing and calving. Not only do these conditions have a detrimental effect on animal health, welfare, and lifetime performance, but the treatment and losses associated can also have a huge impact on profitability.

According to Randal Mathers of Meadows Vets, a lamb or calf will encounter 80-90% of the bugs they will ever meet within the first six weeks of life, therefore their protection is paramount in these early stages, while still allowing them to develop their own immunity.

There are several options farmers can consider to minimise the risk of disease on newborns.


It is well understood a dam’s immune system dips around birth, so making sure she’s fully supported with a well-balanced diet, including good quality forage is essential. Any dam with a negative energy balance and lack of quality protein will struggle to fight infection. In addition, any which are not milky enough may be over suckled, causing udder damage and allowing infection a route in, resulting in mastitis.

Poor quality colostrum and lack of sufficient colostrum will result in a newborn with poor passive immunity, especially before four weeks of age which will leave them vulnerable to any bugs they come across in the environment.

The Scottish Farmer: Lambing pens should be kept as clean and dry as possibleLambing pens should be kept as clean and dry as possible (Image: web)


Along with dipping navels in iodine to lower the risk of infection uptake, reducing stocking density can help curtail infection pressure in lambing and calving sheds.

When it comes to individual pens, best practice is always to muck out between animals, however this is not always practical during busy periods. Traditional methods of disinfecting pens usually involve a water-based disinfectant and while this is certainly better than nothing, the introduction of water can actually increase the ideal conditions for bugs to thrive, and good intentions are wasted.

The use of Biosuper dry bedding conditioning powder at a rate of only 50g per metre squared is enough to freshen up pens and reduce the breeding ground for bacteria. Anecdotal stories of those using Biosuper include elimination of joint ill completely.

Its unique formulation means it works by:

1. Absorbing its own weight in water, meaning moisture for bacteria growth is removed and bedding lasts longer.

2. Releasing sulphuric and phosphoric acid on contact with moisture to lower the pH to 3.4 which means bacteria cannot grow in these acidic conditions.

3. Neutralising ammonia, resulting in improved air quality.

With blanket treatments of antibiotics being phased out, there are a range of methods which can be used to help minimise infection pressure this spring and get the young off to the best start possible.

Lambing and calving pens can quickly become damp and be a source of infection for mother and young.