Farmer Focus: Horrible lambing I want to put behind me

It’s been horrible. We’ve had challenging weather, sick lambs, some appalling staff and bad grass silage to balance.

The February lambs looked good after turnout with some sun on them. Then it started raining and didn’t stop – not good on a wet farm.

See also: 16 ways to reduce lamb mortality

About the author

James and Belinda Kimber
Livestock Farmer Focus writers James and Belinda farm 850 commercial and pedigree sheep and 30 pedigree Simmental and Charolais cattle in Wiltshire across 95ha (45ha owned). James also runs a foottrimming business and Belinda has a B&B.
Read more articles by James and Belinda Kimber

We lost ewes with magnesium deficiency. They were lying dead next to the magnesium licks. At least we can say we tried.

The lambs were treated for coccidiosis and given clostridial and pasteurella vaccinations, but we still have lost lambs from the full range of ailments.

The nematodirus warning locally went to “high” in late March, so we treated. Fortunately, we took some dung samples as well.

It turned out to be a second dose of coccidiosis, which I presume was down to sucking dirty teats.  

The 250 ewes that lambed in late March were the lean group back in September and never really recovered from the drought. They wintered on dairy farms and one group was worried by a farm dog.

They started lambing with reasonable lambs and colostrum, but the lambs went downhill at 36-48 hours old. After four vet visits, the diagnosis was E coli presenting as bad scour, rather than watery mouth.

After a temporary cure by injecting for watery mouth at 12 hours old, the lambs were developing joint ill at 10-12 days.

In contrast, the 400 first-time lambers with the same lambing pens, shed and feed have been relatively problem free. 

I cannot get my head around our staffing situation. One was a no-show, twice, and disappeared overnight, and then we had someone who knew it all and wouldn’t take instructions.

The only good one was a vet student from Hong Kong. They were only interested in cats and dogs but got their head down and were great, and they were interesting to talk to.

Look up construction work at Hong Kong airport to have your mind blown.

To finish on a good note, during one really bad day, someone drove into the yard. I almost said I was too busy, but my manners took over and I showed him the bulls.  

He bought my best Simmental, and, after a TB test, took him home. He phoned that evening (never usually a good sign) and said he was so pleased he wanted to buy another. Result.