Pre lamb treatment for ewes

Given the high prices that have been realized for lambs over the last few seasons and the high scanning rates currently being achieved it is worth paying particular attention to pre-lamb treatments for ewes.

Getting some of these simple practices correct can make a huge difference on lamb survival and ewe condition and ultimately the financial performance of the ewe flock.

Pre-lamb vaccinations

There is often much confusion over the timings and uses of pre-lamb vaccinations, so a brief summary is given below.

These vaccines are given to protect the ewe, but mainly the lamb via its mother’s colostrum, against clostridial diseases such as pulpy kidney and tetanus during the first few months of life. This can be done either with a straight clostridial vaccine eg Multine®, Ultravac® 5in1, Covexin® 10, Coglovax® 8 or by using Nilvax®. Nilvax® combines the clostridial vaccination with a dose of levamisole (clear drench) which serves to enhance the ewe’s immune response.

For the straight vaccines recommended best practice is to give a booster dose to ewes, as well ttooths or hoggets that have received previous recommended vaccinations, two to four weeks prior to the start of lambing. This will give the lambs sufficient protection until docking when it is recommended that they start their own clostridial vaccination program.

If Nilvax® is given in the same two-to-four-week period then, due to the enhanced immune response from the levamisole component of the product, the protection given to the lambs will be sufficient to get them through docking and a vaccination program can be started on these at weaning.

Nilvax® can also be used as far as six weeks back from the start of lambing which might be to enable management practices such as earlier set stocking. If used in this fashion, then it is important to give lambs a 5-in-1 booster vaccination at docking as colostral antibody will have run out by this time.

Lamb vaccine is recommended for use at docking when ewes have received no pre-lamb vaccination treatments.

Other pre-lamb treatments to consider are:


Iodine is important for the function of the thyroid gland of the lamb which in turn is important for its energy metabolism. Lambs that are born deficient in iodine will present in extreme cases as still born or with easily visible goitres (swelling in the neck) or in less severe cases as ‘slow’ lambs that will lack the get up and go required to get to their feet and acquire that all important first feed of colostrum as soon as possible. This is particulary important when lambing in harsh weather.

Iodine is extremely cheap in the form of potassium iodide which can be diluted with water and given orally at the time of pre-lamb vaccinations.

Where ewes, ttooths or hoggets are being, or have been, wintered on brassica crops which are low in iodine then supplementation is essential. The best way to ensure good iodine levels for lambing if feeding brassicas is by the use of long-acting Iodine injection when they go onto the crop. If this has not been done then ensure oral Iodine is given to these animals with their pre lamb vaccinations.

Vit A, D and E 

There are several products that contain Vitamins A, D and E which can be given with pre lamb treatments. These include lamb survival drench (LSD) which is an oral product and Hideject which is an injectable vitamin. These have benefits for both the ewe and the survivability of the lamb and can have the benefit of reducing perinatal deaths. Vitamin E in particular has been shown to improve lamb vigour.


It is never good practice to drench all ewes pre-lamb and the use of pre-lamb anthelmintics is a whole newsletter article in itself.

A few things to consider might be:

  • To drench a percentage of tail end ewes.
  • To restrict the use of long-acting products such as capsules and long-acting injections to for example hoggets, triplets and twinning ttooths.
  • Where long-acting products are being used, have a plan around how to mitigate the risk of these from the point of view of limiting the development of drench resistance.

As always please come in and talk to us or give us a call if you would like to discuss any of your pre-lamb options. It pays to get it right!