Ram and ewe lamb health: When to inject what

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

  • The ingestion of colostrum and the vaccination for lambs to prevent pulpy kidney and other infectious diseases is important.
  • A vaccination programme should be followed for lambs at different stages.
  • There are additional vaccinations for ewe lambs, ram lambs, and Rift Valley fever, as well as the management of replacement ewes after weaning.
  • Producers should be aware of the prevention and control of wireworm, abscesses, and bloodgut, using appropriate vaccines and dosing methods.

Under normal circumstances, lambs receive antibodies from the ewe’s colostrum within the first six hours after birth. This form of immunity can last longer than three months, but lambs must nevertheless be vaccinated at this stage to protect them against infectious diseases.

In situations where ewes did not produce enough colostrum, or lambs did not ingest colostrum within six hours of their birth, one-month-old lambs can start succumbing to pulpy kidney. It is therefore recommended that lambs receive a dose of alum-based pulpy kidney vaccine when they are being marked.

For the sake of the vaccination programme, we regard weaning age as 90 days. Approximately three weeks before weaning, when lambs are approximately 70 days old, the ewe lambs and future rams must receive an oil-based pulpy kidney vaccine along with bluetongue vaccine A. If the bluetongue vaccine from Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) is not available, Blu-Vax from Design Biologix can be used. Or, if the lamb is going to be sold, it can be given only the alum-based pulpy kidney vaccine.

To learn more about the bluetongue vaccine.

Vaccinations at weaning time

At weaning time, when lambs are approximately 90 days old, they can receive bluetongue vaccine B. Approximately three weeks after weaning, when the lambs are about 110 days old, they must receive the alum-based pulpy kidney vaccine. Examples of this vaccine are Pulpyvax from MSD Animal Health or OBP’s pulpy kidney vaccine along with OBP’s bluetongue vaccine C. If the bluetongue vaccine from OBP is not available, Blu-Vax from Design Biologix can be used. Blu-Vax is an inactivated vaccine and lambs must always receive a follow-up dose.

On farms where infectious abscesses such as caseous lymphadenitis (CLA) or Preisz Nocard disease are present, it can be controlled using Glanvac 3 from Zoetis instead of the second Clostridium vaccine after weaning. If the disease is severe, a further booster dose of Glanvac 3 may be needed four weeks later. Thereafter, an annual booster dose can be administered.

Lambs that are weaned on pastures or are destined for the feedlot must receive a combination of Pasteurella and Clostridium vaccine instead of the second Clostridium vaccine after weaning. Examples of these vaccines are Multivax-P from MSD Animal Health, One-Shot Ultra 7 from Zoetis, Clostrivax O from Design Biologix or Ovi-Clos P from Ascendis.

Where the pastures are high in protein such as lucerne and clovers, bloodgut can be a problem. Lambs that are finished on these pastures must be protected against Clostridium perfringens A at least ten days before finishing. Clostrivax O from Design Biologix is used in this case. Alternatively, Coglavax from MSD Animal Health or Covexin from Ceva can be used. Design Biologix’s Ovipast can be used for protection against Pasteurella-bacteria.

Table 1: Vaccination of lambs at weaning time.

 Lamb ageBreeding animalsSale lambs
Marking30 daysPulpyvaxPulpyvax
Before weaning70 daysPulpyvax 1-Shot Bluetongue A or Blu-VaxPulpyvax
Weaning90 daysBluetongue B
After weaning110 daysPulpyvax Bluetongue C Or Blu-VaxPulpyvax
Abscess problems110 daysGlanvac 3 
Feedlot110 daysMultivax-P Or One-Shot Ultra 7 Or Clostrivax O Or Ovi-Clos P 
Clover pasture110 daysClostrivax O Or Coglavax and Ovipast Or Covexin and Ovipast 


Vaccination against other diseases

•    Ewe lambs must receive a Chlamydia vaccination at weaning time. To save on costs, this can be given later, before the first mating. In this instance the following vaccines are suitable: Chlamyvax from Design Biologix, Ovilis Enzovax from MSD Animal Health, and Chlamydia Cevac from Ceva.

•    Ram lambs must be protected against Brucella ovis with Bru-Tect Rev1 from Design Biologix which is given at approximately three to four months of age.

•    Protection against Rift Valley fever must be afforded through vaccination before weaning, if the risk of this disease is high. Alternatively, the vaccine can be used after weaning and the marketing of the cull ewe lambs.

Management after weaning

The rearing of replacement ewes is often neglected, with serious consequences for their lifelong productivity. We strongly recommend that a group of 20 or more weaned ewe lambs be marked and weighed monthly. The weights must be recorded in a graph and compared with a target growth curve, so that ewe lambs will reach 70% of adult weight with the first mating. We are happy to assist with the data processing.

Wireworm control

Regular manure egg counts and the observation of anaemia (FAMACHA test) are essential management tools to prevent losses due to wireworm. Dosing entire herds is one of the biggest money pits and happens regularly. The current pressure on profitability requires that we do not waste resources and time on something that might well be totally unnecessary. Leave the strong ones and dose those that are struggling. – Dr Johan van Rooyen, Steynsburg Animal Hospital

For more information, contact Dr Johan van Rooyen at 082 463 3087, or Wandile Khave at 066 303 6271 (WhatsApp only), or send an email to veearts.sdh@nokwi.co.za.

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