6 November 1998

Indoors v outdoors is the lambing question

INDOOR and outdoor lambing both have pros and cons which should be carefully considered when restructuring flocks.

Chris Trower, vet and sheep specialist from the Larkmead group, looked at issues confronting West Sussex College of Agriculture when making this decision.

More lambs would die outdoors through lack of assistance, he said. "This could also become a welfare problem in very severe conditions and lambs might also die through hypothermia and lack of colostrum."

Space for most

Presently, the college has space to house most stock. Lambing begins in March to tie-in with student teaching and practical work. "I would continue to do this although trying to build-up numbers might make space a bit tight," said Mr Trower.

"Indoor systems generally suffer from more mis-mothering problems, especially when ewes are thick on the ground.

"Abortion agents will have similar effects on outdoor systems, although a storm would spread to unaffected ewes more quickly in indoor lambing systems.

"Some diseases are more common when lambing indoors. However, they only account for one in five lamb deaths, so dont get carried away with this," he told delegates.

Watery mouth

"Diseases such as watery-mouth, navel and joint ill, enteritis and pasteurella are likely to cause problems indoors because of poorer hygiene and ventilation."

Mr Trower agreed with the Meat and Livestock Commissions Jenny Anderson that a closed flock would be the best solution for the college when considering change.

Foot-rot boost

"Its a tremendous boost to be foot-rot free, and reducing risk of buying in abortion, border disease, sheep scab, caseous lymphadenitis and maedi visna, to name a few, cannot be under-estimated," he told the audience.

"Being self-contained does mean coping with diseases that you begin with. The pig industry is an example of where this works well in practice," said Mr Trower.