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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72


page 27


In this section of the subject I propose dealing with the mortality in lambs; but before touching on the main question, I should like to say a few words as to the condition it is desirable that ewes should be in at the time the rams are put in with them, and up to the time of lambing. I merely give my own opinion based on my own experience. My choice is that ewes should be in decidedly forward condition during both the above-mentioned periods. If they are not in condition when the rams go with them, the probability is they will not gain it through the following winter. As far as merino ewes are concerned, the experience of the early days of the colony shows that the most prolific lambings were at a time when the country was so lightly stocked that every sheep of every sex, on good sheep country, was fat. So much for merinos. As to half-breds, I believe the same rule applies. The heaviest lambings from half-bred ewes I have ever known was from sheep so fat at the time the sexes were joined that many persons would have pronounced them too fat for mutton. When the half-bred stage is passed, the ewes may become too gross for fertility-Excessive condition in any breed or degree of breed is certainly not necessary, but I think ewes should be in rather high condition than in any way low. Feed is not abundant or usually nutritious in the early lambing season, and the ewes should have some condition on them to stand the drain of suckling lambs at a time when the grass supply is insufficient to maintain both the condition of the mother and the necessary nourishment for the offspring.

Mortality among lambs happens not infrequently after cutting and tailing, and blood poisoning is the cause. The best preventive is undoubtedly not to use old yards for the operation, especially yards where any animals have been slaughtered, or where there is any accumulation of filth. The presence of either of these things is enough to engender life organisms which may taint the blood of any animal with an exposed wound. Farmers often use yards about a homestead which horses, cattle, pigs, &c, have been in the habit of occupying, and which have more or less of decaying matter about them. Such yards should not be used for any castrating operations. The better plan is to pitch a yard in some clean spot in an open field. This can be done easily with a few hurdles, or for large numbers of sheep with a few lengths of wire netting and hurdles for close work. This method will be found inexpensive, and very conducive to the well-being of the lambs. Mr. John Gilruth, V.S. is of the opinion that page 28 blood poisoning arises chiefly from micro-organisms which infest low-lying swampy localities. There is nothing improbable in the supposition that such spots do produce the result, for the germs of malarial diseases are well known to exist in marshy and swampy places, but I believe myself that the most frequent cause of blood poisoning is from old and dirty yards, and my own experience is that when those yards are abandoned and new ground chosen, the mortality in lambs from operations is infinitesimal.