Five ways to reduce lamb mortality this spring


Five ways to reduce lamb mortality this spring

Lamb in Dowra Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Lamb in Dowra Mart. Photo Brian Farrell

Only 85pc of lambs are all lambs conceived are alive at weaning time. While it’s not possible to save every lamb, a few simple changes can go a long way to reduce lamb mortality on farm. Here are Teagasc’s guidelines on how to best prevent lamb deaths:

Birth weight

Lambs that are too heavy or too light have higher mortality rates. The ideal birth weight of a lamb will vary by litter size and breed.

If birth weights are too high or too low for a significant proportion of the lambs, then pre-lambing nutrition needs to be changed.

According to Teagasc a singe born lamb should weigh in the region of 4.5-6.5kg, twin born 4.0-5.5kg and triplet born 3.5-4.5kg.


Lambs are born with virtually no immune system, which means they are vulnerable to picking up bugs.

Hygiene is very important around lambing time. Straw and lime must be provided for to ensure than pens are clean and disinfected.

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Ensure that ropes and lamb pullers are cleaned and disinfected each time between use. Bottles and stomach tubes also need to be cleaned and disinfected between uses to avoid transferring harmful bugs between newborn lambs.


This can occur when a ewe has insufficient milk or where lambs are unable to suck. Making sure that each lamb gets 5pc of its body weight of ewe’s colostrum (200ml-300ml) is critical to get the lamb off to a good start.


Lambs succumb to hypothermia due to exposure to inclement. Even when indoors, small or weak lambs may need an artificial heat source to prevent hypothermia until they are up and running properly.


This can happen by lambs being killed by drowning, mismothering or by being crushed.

0Having enough individual lambing pens (8/100 ewes), fostering pens (1/50 ewes) and group pens to allow for supervision and mothering up of lambs prior to turnout to grass will help to reduce mortality in this area.

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