26 February 1999

Easy to misdiagnose twin lamb disease

BUYING a quality concentrate feed containing reasonable levels of digestible starch such as wheat or barley will help avoid twin lamb.

But ensure it is twin lamb disease that is affecting your flock because in many cases it is not, says sheep vet specialist Chris Lewis. "Often its starvation that causes similar symptoms."

This is because thin ewes use up body reserves to keep lambs alive. This can lead to them collapsing with similar symptoms to twin lamb, says Mr Lewis.

Condition score ewes six to eight weeks before lambing to avoid problems. Thin ewes should have extra feed and those that are too fat should be watched to ensure they are eating.

"Exercise also helps. Ensure housed ewes have enough space to move around. Floor-feeding can be a good idea because looking for grub makes them exercise.

"When trough feeding, ewes must have enough space to feed at the same time so the greedy ones dont eat it all."

Where twin lamb disease has been a concern before its worth asking your vet to blood profile a sample of ewes. Vets can then advise on the betahydroxybutrate level, which signifies energy absorption and whether concentrate levels need to be changed.

Molasses licks can help, but they shouldnt be relied on as a substitute to good feeding, says Mr Lewis. "The best way of avoiding problems prior to lambing is to feed good quality concentrate." &#42