27 February 1998

Avoid heat stress

ENSURE adequate ventilation for heavily-fleeced ewes lambing indoors in mild weather or run the risk of heat stress.

Thats the reminder from independent sheep consultant, Alistair Bird, who urges sheep producers to open doors and increase air flow if ewe housing becomes stuffy.

"Heat stress is more likely to occur in buildings adapted for sheep with low roofs and poor ventilation." Typical signs are excessive panting, subdued reactions and reduced feed intake. This could lead to twin-lamb disease, higher lamb mortality and even respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, adds Mr Bird.

"Should ewes bearing triplets be off their food dont jump to the conclusion its twin-lamb disease. Turn stock outside and see if they perk up," he suggests.

"Check ventilation, ensure good access to water and dont overstock. When buildings are prone to overheating in mild weather, consider winter shearing if ewes are housed for six to eight weeks."

MAFF guidelines for ewe housing recommend a minimum 1m sq floor area for a halfbred type ewe. Pen group sizes should not exceed 50 ewes a pen.