As sheep farmers prepare for their busy few months ahead, some timely management advice has been given by DAERA advisers.

Vaccinating for clostridial diseases is common and good practice on sheep farms.

It is important ewes receive their booster, with most manufacturers recommending booster vaccines are given four to six weeks pre-lambing. If lambing is spread out, the vaccine may need to be given at different times depending on due dates. This is important to ensure maximum passive transfer of immunity to lambs which provides them with protection for approximately the first three weeks from birth. After this clostridial vaccination of the lambs is required.

The potential financial losses due to clostridial disease makes vaccination a worthwhile investment. Always get advice from your own vet before starting a vaccination programme.

The next task to complete is to have all your supplies ready for lambing.

Have all the necessary supplies in stock ahead of the busy lambing period. These include lambing aids, arm length gloves, lubricant, powdered colostrum substitute or frozen colostrum, iodine or chlorhexidine for navels, stomach tubes, feeding bottles, thermometer and heat lamps or warming box. Have plenty of straw in store and use it!

Lambing pens should be at least 1.5 m x 1.5 m or 1.2 m x 1.8 m. Fostering head gates are useful to have on standby. Being prepared will reduce both labour requirement and stress during this busy period.

Then with suitable weather conditions, ewes and their lambs can be turned out to grass.

Where lambing is soon to be underway or about to start in flocks, turnout of ewes with their lambs at foot is getting closer.

Choose well sheltered areas with target grass covers greater than 2200 kg DM per hectare (approximately 6 cm). Marking lambs and ewes with numbers or letters makes identification of ewe and lamb sets easier if any health issues occur and they have to be taken back inside.

Monitor closely, particularly in the days following turnout.

Ideally, turn them out in the morning to allow them time to acclimatise to the lower night time temperatures. Hypothermia is often the main risk factor with young lambs early in the season, particularly in periods of poor weather.