This week down on the farm...
"With lambing season fast approaching our degree students have been hard at work in preparation for the arrival of the four-legged bundles of joy. Working with Matt Bagley who is the Farm and Estate Manager for the University of Lincoln and his expert team, students have been checking on our pregnant ewe’s progress, making sure they are ready to give birth with the Heptavac vaccine.
"Newborn lambs are incredibly vulnerable to a number of nasty diseases and illnesses that can be life threatening. To ensure the lambs have the best possible chance, the Heptavac vaccine is delivered to all ewes four to six weeks prior to lambing, as a preventative measure.
"The vaccine ensures that the unborn lambs have the appropriate antibodies in their system to protect them against disease. Heptavac significantly reduces lamb mortality by counteracting signs of lamb dysentery, tetanus and other illnesses a lamb may succumb to in the first stages of their lives. The lambs will also receive an additional dose four weeks after birth giving them an extra boost to protect against a number of diseases including lamb dysentery.
"Our first year FdSc Agriculture students gave the ewes the injection subcutaneously into their necks. This gives them practical experience of handling the ewes, identifying the best place for the injection and giving them the vaccine. Records are an important part of the process to provide a reference for the future. The date and dose of the vaccination is registered against each sheep’s Electronic Identification (EID) microchip number. The sheep have two identifiers if they are aged 12 months and over – their microchip and an ear tag.
"The EID utilises a unique animal identification code which is transmitted via an electronic identifier. They enable the movements of the sheep to be tracked, which provides more accurate recordkeeping for the farm. Both the microchip and tags are individual to the sheep, which means that immunisations of this nature can be recorded digitally and create a lasting record of the animal’s vaccination history. This provides an overview of the health of the flock and a mechanism to make comparisons across the herd if required.
"Modern farming is increasingly leveraging data to make the sector more efficient, improve productivity and reduce its impact on the environment. Vaccinations and effective records play a crucial role in aiding farmers to make informed decisions about the future of the flock. Exposure to accurate recording practices in conjunction with this essential vaccination process familiarises our students with procedures and practices that are likely to become increasingly important in the future.
"We’ll keep you up to date on the ewe’s progress as we await the new arrivals!"
Emily Dowse, Lecturer in Livestock Science at Riseholme College