This month we look at work from Warwick University which is funded by EBLEX. The work is producing some interesting and useful results, which are increasing our knowledge about the importance of feeding for younger ewes in terms of susceptibility to mastitis.

The results show teat lesions are significantly higher in shearlings compared with six year old ewes. Lambs on first-time mothers have been found to spend more time suckling, which increases the risk of damage to the teat. It is likely that this is due to the lower milk yield in younger ewes, as udder development is still ongoing. Importantly, incidence of teat lesions and the risk of mastitis increases when shearlings have a body condition of less than three. This is because the ewe can’t satisfy the lambs’ demand for milk. Good nutritional management is crucial for optimum condition score and to reduce mastitis risks, particularly for younger ewes. If possible, manage thin and younger ewes in a separate group, so supplementary feed can be strategically used.

For farmers lambing ewe lambs, these should rear only one lamb to reduce the risk of udder damage. Lactating ewe lambs require 20% more feed than mature ewes, which is important to remember when planning where they will be grazed. Lambs should be creep fed and weaned early (from eight to nine weeks of age) to allow the ewe lamb sufficient time to continue to grow.

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