20 February 1998

Colostrum for multiples

HIGH scanning percentages mean sheep producers should be prepared for multiple births and ensure adequate colostrum is available.

MLC sheep scientist Jenny Anderson warns that all multiple birth lambs should receive additional colostrum. "These lambs require at least 200ml of colostrum three times in the first day. But overfeeding can lead to digestive difficulties, so little and often is best."

She suggests that ewes with large supplies of colostrum can be milked by hand, and the colostrum frozen. Plastic ice-cube bags are ideal for this, but care must be taken with thawing, as overheating will destroy antibodies.

Powdered colostrum is a satisfactory substitute, and producers could also consider using goats colostrum, preferably from herds tested free of caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE), she advises.

"Cow colostrum should be used with care, as it could cause lamb anaemia, although colostrum from Jersey cows appears to cause no side-effects."

Dr Anderson says colostrum should be fed via a bottle because stomach tubing can make lambs lazy. "The sucking instinct is strongest immediately after birth, so encourage all lambs to suckle naturally before topping up with supplementary colostrum."