Purchasing store lambs is an excellent way to make use of surplus grass this winter.

However, keeping a keen eye on the smaller details can help to increase whatever profit margins there are to be had.

Lambs need to be in good health to allow for optimum growth and to minimise losses.

If lambs are purchased privately or through the mart, it is worth taking note of their vaccination status. Protection from the dam’s colostrum will now be non-existent at this stage and lambs will be susceptible to clostridial diseases and pasteurella.

Sudden deaths in the field are often the first tell-tale sign. If vaccination status is unknown or in doubt, it is important to vaccinate twice, four weeks apart, as soon as possible.

Fluke and worms

A high worm or fluke burden will hold back lambs by reducing daily liveweight gain.

Ideally upon purchase, quarantine dosing will be adhered to by using a group four or group five anthelmintic and then housing for at least 24 hours (preferably 48 hours) afterwards.

Housing post-dosing prevents any resistant worms passing on to your pasture.

Following this period, lambs should be turned out onto contaminated pasture. Regular dung sampling every few weeks, depending on how the lambs are looking, will allow a close eye to be kept on worm status.

It is important to note withdrawal periods of products coming up to finishing.

Lower gains

Lameness will also take a toll on profit margins due to reduced daily liveweight gain. On arrival, lambs should be foot bathed, with lame lambs isolated and treated as required.

Finally, watch out for trace element deficiencies.

Again, this can hold back lambs and decrease liveweight gain.

Blood sampling a small number of randomly selected sheep will provide information as to levels and whether a bolus or drench may be necessary.

  • Matthew Wright is a veterinary surgeon at Lisnafillan farm vets in Ballymena, Co Antrim.
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