24 November 1995

Mortality cost high

AGNES Winter, of Liverpool Universitys Veterinary Field Station, questioned whether many farmer delegates kept accurate lambing time mortality records.

"Ewe mortality nationally is estimated to be 4 to 6%, higher in hill flocks," Dr Winter said. "Lamb mortality estimates are around 15%, with wide variations in individual flocks."

Most deaths were due to factors which had been known about for years and for which good preventative strategies were available, or for which diagnosis and appropriate treatment could be implemented. Though zero mortality could not be achieved, losses were often far too high.

So, too, was the cost. A not unusual mortality rate in a 1000 ewe hill flock with a 110% lambing could mean 170 to 200 dead lambs. In a 1000-ewe lowland flock with a lambing % of 180 between 250 and 300 lambs might die. At even £1/kg potential the financial loss in the lowland flock would be over £10,000 a season.

"It may well be cost-effective to take on extra labour for the most busy times. But staff need to have a good standard of training in the skills needed to deal with live animals. I am very sad about what has happened to practical training in recent years."

It was essential that staff could assess quickly whether intervention in lambing was necessary, if the stockman could do the job, or should veterinary help be called. "Premature intervention can be as harmful as delaying too long. Un-skilled assistance can result at best in a sick ewe because of bruising or infection, or at worst a dead ewe." &#42

Dr Agnes Winter… Lamb mortality losses far too high.