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Monday, 11 May 2015

Fostering, Docking & Castration

As a result of high mortality rates in sheep flocks, such deaths leave opportunity for weak lambs for other ewes to be ‘fostered’ onto ewes that have lost a lamb; or for a ewe with a single lamb to take on one more. Generally speaking, twin lambs are the optimum for each ewe. This in theory is easy enough, but in practice only an average of 60% of ewes is likely to accept a lamb long-term.

Methods of Fostering:
Transfer of foetal fluids- rubbing an orphan lamb in the foetal fluids of the new born lamb before the ewe licks her own lamb is the most successful fostering method. An idea drawn upon this theory is to place both the new born lamb and the foster lamb into a bag or small area in order for their odours and fluids to mix and increases chance of ‘camouflaging’ the foster lamb. However, this may present problems in feeding intakes and also the ewe may choose to reject both.
Skinning- the old lamb can be skinned and placed over a foster lamb. The foster lamb and new ewe should be put in a small pen for a few days to ensure the ewe takes to it
Foster Crates/Stocks- this method will ensure that the lamb will suck however not always guarantee the lamb will be taken long-term. The ewe should be provided with concentrate feed at least twice daily and fresh water at all times.

The Codes of recommendations for the welfare of livestock - sheep
  • Artificial rearing of lambs requires close attention and high standards of supervision and stockmanship if it is to be successful. It is essential that all lambs should start with an adequate supply of colostrum.
  • All lambs should receive an adequate amount of suitable liquid feed, such as ewe milk replacer, at regular intervals each day for at least the first four weeks of their life.
  • From the second week of life, lambs should also have access to palatable and nutritious solid food (which may include grass) and always have access to fresh, clean water.
  • Where automatic feeding equipment is provided, lambs should be trained in its use to ensure that they regularly consume an adequate amount of food and the equipment should be checked daily to see that it is working properly.
  • Troughs should be kept clean and any stale feed removed. Automatic feeding systems must be well-maintained and checked daily.
  • Equipment and utensils used for liquid feeding should be thoroughly cleansed and sterilised at frequent intervals.
  • A dry bed and adequate draught-free ventilation should be provided.
  • Where necessary, arrangements should be made to supply safe supplementary heating for very young lambs.
Docking and Castration
There is a large body of evidence that tail docking and castration cause both acute and chronic pain in lambs; there are doubts whether both (and either) procedures are even necessary in fattening lambs sold before December (8-9 months old) when pregnancy is not a major concern.
Reasons for docking are usually to ensure that the tail does not cause disease such as fly strike. Often a long tail will become matted, dirty and stained with faeces. However when the tail is docked too short this is against welfare laws for sheep.
 Welfare code recommendation 62: Farmers and shepherds should consider carefully whether tail docking within a particular flock is necessary. Tail docking may be carried out only if failure to do so would lead to subsequent welfare problems because of dirty tails and potential fly strike.
Reasons for castration are usually because…


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