Reduce lamb deaths during cold weather: 3 tips from Wynand
DOHNE-MERINO, FARMING, LAMBS | SEPTEMBER 14, 2020
Cold, wet weather is certainly not unusual in the Overberg. And therefore, lamb deaths as a result of chilly weather is also not unheard of.
But one August – in the middle of winter – Wynand du Toit, Suidplaas Dohnes owner, suffered a terrible setback. During his morning drive around his farm, he found 461 dead lambs. They’d all died as a result of the cold and wet weather the night before.
According to Wynand, lamb deaths had risen as high as 23% in the past on Suidplaas.
“Genetic progress comes to a standstill when so many lambs die as a result of the weather. Rain is not the problem. Rather, lambs die as a result of the chill factor – the combination between the cold, rain and wind on animals that are drenched from the downpours. In the Overberg especially, the wind plays a big role.”
There and then, Wynand realised that this loss cannot continue. As a result, he built lambing booths for his Dohnes. “Shelter and lamb booths can definitely help to reduce the number of deaths. We’ve been using this practice at Suidplaas for a number of years now – with great success.”
(Wynand says that it’s vital to manage your lamb booths correctly. This will be addressed in a future blogpost.)
Wynand says that thanks to these and other measures he’s put in place since that deadly August night, he has managed to reduce lamb deaths from cold weather to zero, and lamb deaths from other reasons to 3%.
“If we’re to encourage genetic evolution, then we need our lambs to survive. Cold weather can hamper a farm’s operations, but if a farmer manages for these weather conditions, then losses can be minimised. Suidplaas Dohnes can attest to this.”
He adds there are three additional factors that can help reduce lamb deaths:
1. A lamb’s birth weight should be between 4.5 and 5.5kg’s to maximise the chance of survival. Feed your pregnant ewes the right rations from six weeks before lambing, to achieve this weight.
2. 90% of all cold weather-related deaths occur with twins and triplets. If one or more of these siblings don’t immediately consume the mother’s colostrum, then there’s a greater chance the lamb won’t survive. Try to ensure they immediately get colostrum into their bodies. Lamb booths can play an important role in this process, ensuring that a strong bond develops between the mother and her lambs.
3. 92% of all lamb deaths from cold weather occur when the lamb is between one and three days’ old (and not just after birth). Knowing this can help Dohne farmers put measures in place to protect lambs against the elements during this time.