With the lambing season for mid-season flocks fast approaching, it’s time for farmers to start thinking about administering clostridial vaccinations.

It is important to vaccinate the ewes in relation to these diseases as their colostrum is the main source of antibodies against these diseases in the newborn lamb.

By annually vaccinating the ewes, their antibody levels remain sufficiently high to allow protective cover to be transferred to the lamb.

However, it must also be remembered that in order for these lambs to benefit from the vaccination, they must receive adequate quantities of good quality colostrum within the first two hours after birth. The sooner the lamb gets this colostrum, the more benefit they will get from it.

Clostridia – which is a bacteria – can cause many different types of diseases in sheep such as: metritis in ewes; lamb dysentery; and pulpy kidney.

By vaccinating ewes, farmers can drastically reduce the incidence of these diseases from occurring.

Pulpy kidney is the most common type of clostridial disease found in sheep – in Ireland. It is commonly found in fast-growing lambs. These animals – that are usually over one month-of-age – are consuming high concentrate diets, or are suckling heavy milking ewes.

When do I need to administer?

‘Booster’ vaccinations are due generally two-to-six weeks pre-lambing. The majority of products available on the market should be given four weeks before lambing is due to commence.

It’s also important to remember that a full, two-shot primary course will be required to ensure that the ewes have adequate protection.

The most common pitfalls with vaccination:

  • Not giving lambs the full primary course: By not completing the vaccination course, the immunity levels from the first vaccine shot are not sufficient to protect your sheep and you can still have losses;
  • Administering a lower dose of vaccine than is recommended: By administering a smaller vaccine dose, the sheep are being underdosed and as a result, which will have a lower antibody response which may well not be protective in the face of infection;
  • Incorrect storage of the vaccine: Vaccines must be kept refrigerated as per the instructions and are sensitive to temperature changes;
  • Not using a vaccine that covers multiple clostridia: There are a number of vaccines on the market, many of which cover up to 10 individual clostridial bacterial species and toxins. It is advisable to use a vaccine that covers as many clostridia and toxins as possible as the difference can be catastrophic and in many cases the price difference between the two vaccines per sheep is small;
  • Good technique and cleanliness.