Tim Keady (Teagasc) touched on the causes of lamb mortality in the first week of life – neonatal mortality. Referring to research carried out in Athenry, he said: “52% of neonatal mortality occurs prior to or at birth. In other words, half of deaths during the first week of life, occur before or after the lamb hits the ground.

“Another 21% will die within 24 hours and 27% of neonatal mortality occurs between 24 hours and seven days-of-age,” he added.


  • Accidental: 8%;
  • Dystocia: 15%;
  • Infection: 38%;
  • Other causes: 8%;
  • Non-diagnosable: 28%.

“With proper management, a lot of lamb mortality is potentially preventable,” Tim highlighted. A recent survey outlined that 23% of farmers do not clean or do not clean and disinfect their pens; infection is going to build as the lambing season progresses. 15% only clean them out and do not disinfect and 11% disinfect and do not clean them out.

In summary -

  • Scan your ewes and feed to scanning results
  • Use a ration/nut with quality feed ingredients and feed to match forage quality
  • Hygiene is key around lambing so practice the basics right. Use arm length gloves, lube, and iodine for the lambs naval, ensure pens are cleaned out and disinfected and ensure any implements used to feed lambs are kept clean.
  • Get colostrum into the lamb as soon as possible.

Article compiled by Nigel Scally – Technical Sales Advisor Rathcoffey/Clonee - 087 311 0772.