Farm Animal Information - Sheep/Goats

Farm Animal Information - Sheep/Goats


Bottle feeding has to be learned by the lamb.  To teach the lamb to drink, place the teat in its mouth and move the jaw by hand to stimulate sucking.

Day 1: 

The lamb requires 5-6 feeds of high quality colostrum spaced evenly throughout the day.  Colostrum is absolutely critical for the lamb to establish an active immune system and to provide antibodies that will help the lamb to fight infection and prevent scours.  The aim is to feed about 125ml per feed for a 4kg lamb.

Day 2-4:

Big robust lambs that have adapted well to the bottle can have the number of feeds reduced to 3-4/day but the volume increased.  Aim to feed 200-300mls per feed. Do not be tempted to overfeed!  It is best to keep the lambs a little hungry especially in the first few days.  Overfeeding can lead to scours or bloating.

Day 5 onwards:

Transition lambs onto cold, yoghurtised milk.  The most common cause of pet lamb deaths is abomasal bloat.  THIS IS REALLY COMMON!  A bacteria called Sarcinia lives in the abomasum and helps to digest the lactose in milk.  When Sarcinia starts to proliferate it produces a large volume of gas, which if not removed quickly by the lamb, can result in abomasal bloat and death of the lamb.  Rearing lambs on cold yoghurtised milk will virtually eliminate this issue.

To Make Yoghurtised Milk
  • Place 3L of warm water (40C) in a 9L bucket (ensure the bucket is twice the volume to your milk or you may have a mess to clean up)
  • Add 1 kg of Anlamb powder and mix with a stick blender
  • Add a 200ml Easiyo Satchet to the water and mix again
  • Leave in the hot water cupboard to thicken (8-12hrs)
    The mix varies from a bubbly thickshake to crusty cream cheese sitting on top of a clear liquid, to thick commercial yoghurt
  • Top up with cold water to the 8L mark on the bucket
  • Remove 200ml of this liquid for use as the started for the next batch
  • When it’s time to feed the lamb, whisk the mix well and decant what you need and feed cold
  • Introduce the yoghurt with a gradual transition from warm to cold feeding
  • You can change the bucket every so often for a clean one if you prefer
  • You may need to occasionally ‘recharge’ the mixture with extra yoghurt if it gets too thin or seems to not be fermenting well.
Lamb Scours

The vast majority of scours in lambs is nutritional/osmotic rather than infectious and are generally easily fixed:

  1. At the first sign of a mild scour with the lamb still bright and drinking
  2. Increase the concentration of the milk replacer being fed by around 20-25%
  3. Cut the water down but use the same amount of powder
  4. Also reduce the volume fed for two or three feeds by 50ml
  5. This will frequently stop the scour, but make sure the lamb has fresh water available and watch for constipation, this can happen quite easily.When the scour stops, transition back to normal volume and concentration.
  6. If the above approach doesn’t work or the lamb is dull or inappetant, you will need to move onto the electrolyte therapy.
  7. Please talk to your vet. When the milk is reintroduced, use the reduced volume/increased concentration approach as above.

Flystrike is estimated to cost the New Zealand sheep industry about $37 million a year, with those losses coming from deaths, treatment costs, and loss of meat and wool production.  Even relatively minor strikes can result in marked appetite loss and subsequent losses of weight with prolonged recovery times.

A simple plan for protection is to shear your sheep in late December and treat immediately or within a few days with spray-on or pour-on treatments like Clik (18 weeks protection), Zapp Encore (8 weeks). You may need to use a half dose as a crutch treatment at the end of this period to protect at the end of summer. Be sure to warn the shearer and discard this wool at shearing. Zapp Encore, Cyrex or Maggo can be used to treat fly blown sheep. Depending on the severity of the strike, sheep may need further treatment oreuthanasia. Talk to your vet. Below is a table of the products we recommend and stock at Cambridge Vets.Fly Strike Table-583
* at 3ltr applied washFour species of blowfly are recorded as causing strikes on sheep in New Zealand, with the Australian green blowfly [Lucilia cuprina] and the European green blowfly [Lucilia sericata] recognized as the most important primary strike flies.
Prevention of flystrike is largely reliant on the application of insecticides by a variety of means [saturation dipping, jetting, low volume pour-ons or spray-on] to the fleece of  ‘at risk’ animals, along with good animal husbandry for effective worm control and to prevent faecal soiling, and crutching and shearing at appropriate times.  The preventative chemicals most commonly used belong to the broad insect growth regulator [IGR] group of compounds.The IGR’s fall into two distinct chemical classes;
1.Triazine/pyrimidine derivatives such as cyromazine [Vetrazin] and dicyclanil [CLiK and CLiKZiN]
2. Benzoyl phenyl urea [BPU] compounds represented by diflubenzuron and triflumuronLucilia spp blowflies have demonstrated a remarkable ability to develop resistance to various chemicals used to control or       prevent flystrike, with resistance first manifested as a shorter than expected period of protection in spite of proper application and dosage.  Strains of Lucilia spp. resistant to diazinon an organophoshate, have been recorded throughout New Zealand and recent surveys have suggested that there may be widespread resistance to BPUs in the Waikato.Minimizing the losses caused by flystrike requires a planned preventative approach using effective products.  A preventative   approach means treatments are applied before expected fly activity rather than waiting until animals get struck.  Resistance management needs to be factored in when planning flystrike prevention programmes, alongside other key factors such as rainfall, class of sheep, shearing, docking and weaning dates, product application method and previous fly challenge.  If you have any doubts about the effectiveness of your current flystrike prevention programme please give us a call.See individual pack details for full instructions on how to get the best out of your choice
of product.
Ryegrass staggers is seen in lambs and calves in the summer / spring. Some perennial ryegrass contains the fungal endophyte Epichloe festucae (previously Neotyphodium) var. lolii, which produces toxins such as lolitrem B. This is a neurotoxin which can cause tremors, incoordination/
ataxia, falling over, and a high-stepping gait. The clinical signs are an effect of a depolarising blockade of the purkinje neurons in the cerebellum.

Potassium Bromide (KBr) has been used for ages to help treat seizures. It has the opposite effect to lolitrem B (hyperpolarizing the cerebellar nerve cells), so a group in Australia trialled the treatment of Ryegrass Staggers/ Toxicosis in lambs with a drench of potassium bromide.

Various groups of lambs were fed either Lucerne chaff or ryegrass seed containing lolitremB, and then some were treated with Potassium Bromide either as a single dose or as a daily drench.

Those lambs which were fed ryegrass seed with loitrem B and developed moderate tremor and gait abnormalities who were subsequently given a single drench of KBr had a reduced likelihood of falling and a better gait. They also had lower muscle voltage, suggesting reduced tremor. It may also reduce stress levels (measured by cortisol concentration).

In the future, this could be a useful treatment to help farmers move affected stock, to perform husbandry procedures on them, or to treat recumbent animals. However, the dose rate and safety of the product has not been established for ruminants, so further studies will be needed.

So for now, it is best to identify at-risk paddocks and avoid grazing them with susceptible stock (especially calves). They show signs particularly when grazing seedy grass or grazing really low. New varieties of ryegrass are available for re-drilling paddocks which do not contain the endophyte.

If you do see animals showing signs of ryegrass staggers, it is best to minimize stress and droving. Monitor them for accidents (e.g. getting cast or stuck), and be slow and gentle with them. Delay yarding if possible.



There are several ways to accidentally poison stock with drench that you need to be aware of.
Pour-on is deadly if given by mouth.  Overdosing by more than 50% is dangerous, especially with Levamisole or Selenium.  There are no Abamectin (Ivomec-type) products licensed for oral use in cattle because of potential for overdosing.  Never add drench to bulk tanks such as calf milk feeders as you will have no control over how much each animal drinks.Always read directions and dose rates carefully, and if you have delegated drenching to other staff, make sure they fully understand your instructions, route of administration, and the dose rates.Bloat Drench is extremely toxic to calves in it’s concentrate form.  Never use old bloat drench drums as calf feeders.

Plants / Trees

– Oleander is extremely toxic, to stock and to people.  In one case, 5 leaves killed 5 calves.  Remove it with extreme care as scratches can also cause problems.

– Yew leaves, bark and seeds are all poisonous, and just as bad fresh or wilted.  Do not throw trimmings into stock paddocks.

– Acorns are particularly poisonous when they are green (fallen during high winds).  Calves suckling cows that have eaten acorns are most susceptible, followed by calves eating them, then adult animals.

– Rhododendron  has been responsible for the death of several pet lambs, leading to great distress.  Keep lambs out of the garden, and trimmings out of the paddock.

– Lily of the Valley contains digitalis glycosides, the same toxin found in foxglove.  Once again, keep it away from stock.

Poisonous Plants for stock-848-331

Other plants

There are plenty of other plants that can cause poisonings in stock, including Poa Aquatica (which has locally been known as Oreipunga disease due to its occurrence in this area), rhubarb, arum lily, macrocarpa (particularly after trimming or high winds), ragwort, tutu, hemlock, bracken fern, marijuana, and many others.  Most will only be poisonous if eaten in large quantities but are better not to be eaten at all.

Rubbish / Dump Sites

Old car batteries and sheep dip have caused problems due to the lead and arsenic content. Beware the rubbish pile and inquisitive stock.

If you are concerned that your stock has eaten or been overdosed with any of the above, or you are unsure of how safe a product or plant matter is, please ring the clinic immediately on 0800 226 838 or (07) 827 7099 and ask to speak to a vet.

Androvax is a vaccine that increases fecundity in breeding ewes, increasing lambing percentage by an average 20%. It contains an androstenedione-protein complex which raises antibody levels, causing a change in hormone production which temporarily blocks the release of eggs from the ovaries. More eggs mature and when antibody levels fall these extra eggs are released, thus increasing the number of lambs born.
In the first year two doses are administered. The first dose is given 8 – 10 weeks before ewes are mated and the second dose at 4 – 6 weeks prior to mating. In subsequent years, previously vaccinated ewes only need a single booster injection 4 – 6 weeks prior to mating.


Toxoplasmosis never goes away and has been shown to be present on every sheep farm in New Zealand. One shot of
Toxovax gives your ewes a lifetime of protection against the devastating abortion storms Toxoplasmosis can cause.
Vaccination can increase lamb numbers by an average of 3% as well as decreasing the number of dry ewes by 14% on average.

Ewe hoggets and two tooths are most at risk, but any susceptible ewe that contracts Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy is at risk. Infection causes:

¨ At early gestation – embryonic loss or reabsorption

¨ Mid gestation – fetal death, mummification and abortion

¨ Late gestation – birth of weak, non-viable lambs

The life cycle of Toxoplasmosis involves wild birds and rodents who have cysts in their muscle and are then eaten by cats. Cats then pass out the infective stage of the life cycle directly onto pasture or hay via faeces. Sheep grazing on this contaminated pasture or hay can pick up the disease, and if this occurs for the first time during pregnancy, abortions can occur. Often the farmer sees a reduced scanning percentage and a lot of late or dry ewes. Abortions are not always seen.

Toxovax is a live vaccine, has a short shelf life and is made to order. Please order your Toxovax from us at least four weeks before you need to use it, which should be at least 4 weeks before mating, to ensure supply.


Campyvax – requires a booster pre-tupping and a sensitizer 4-8 weeks earlier for ewe lambs.

Vaccinating with Campyvax® improves lambing performance and prevention of Campylobacter abortions. Flocks that are vaccinated have lambing percentages on average 9% higher than flocks that are not. Vaccination should happen 4-8 weeks prior to mating. Hoggets need a sensitizer dose 4 weeks before this shot (ie 8-12 weeks before mating).

  • Campylobacter is present on 88% of New Zealand farms.
  • Maiden Ewes hoggets or two tooths are most at risk but mixed age ewes who have not been previously exposed (up to 50%) are still at risk too.
  • It is the most common infectious agent causing abortion on New Zealand farms, with 60% of sheep abortions diagnosed attributed to Campylobacter.
  • Occurs when susceptible animals ingest contaminated feed or water, or by direct contact with infected fetuses or fetal membranes. Scavenging birds such as the Black Backed Gull may spread the disease between paddocks and even farms.
  • After infection, the organism is present in discharges for up to six weeks, with some ewes becoming longer-term carriers.
  • Infection can persist for a number of years in carrier sheep without overt signs of disease.
  • Signs are not just aborted lambs, there may be reduced scanning and lambing percentages too.



I know it seems an age away, but far too quickly the rams will be joining the ewes. I was reminded of this last week when asked to vasectomize some rams to make them teasers! This system works very well to compact mating; the presence of (vasectomized) rams prior to the mating season brings the ewes into heat for the real rams! It is a relatively straightforward veterinary surgery, but needs to be done a month or two before their introduction to ensure they are not fertile. Other things to consider ahead of time are the 2 major causes of abortion, for which highly effective vaccines are available.

WORMWISE – sheep, goats and calves

There is a LOT of worm resistance to drenches reported by the labs, which is defined as a reduction of <90%in faecal egg count after drenching. In fact resistance has already developed to one of the “new” sheep drenches recently developed.

The Wormwise website gives some great advice for reducing the risk.

Faecal egg counts are a great way of seeing if animals actually need a drench (why waste time and money?), and if a drench has done the job (7-10 days after drenching). Simply drop off some samples to our clinic – we can give you some plastic pots.

How often do you need to drench? It depends on the pasture burden, stocking density, species grazing, weather impact on worm lifecycle, drench used…

Paddocks that just graze youngstock will develop a higher worm burden.

Co-grazing different species, or rotating youngstock with adult cattle, will reduce the worm burden.

Warm, wet weather is ideal for worms and quickens their lifecycle – some species 14 days! Does this sound familiar in the Waikato?

Oral drenches tend to have no residual activity whereas pour-on and injectable generally last a month. But oral drenches seem to be more effective in youngstock.

Check the weight of some animals, the recommended dose rate, the dose actually delivered by the gun into a measuring jug, and that the product is not out of date!

Combination drenches will reduce the risk of resistance.

Levamisole (clear drench) is still the best for cooperia ……

Refugia allows the dilution of resistant worm eggs with “normal” eggs from undrenched animals, and the resistance genes generally have an energy cost which makes them less competitive. In practice, this means not drenching the best 10% of the mob, or similar strategy.

Goats do not seem to have developed much immunity to worms compared to other ruminants, so even adults often need worming over summer. We recommend increasing the dose to about 50% above what sheep are advised.


Goats are generally more resistant than sheep, and their browsing habits make them less prone to ingesting spores. Milking goats are probably at greatest risk.

Prevention is best achieved by never making stock graze into the base level of pastures. The fungus grows on the litter at the base of the pasture and the spores are concentrated there.

Other options include:
· Spray pastures with fungicide.
· Use a suitable zinc prevention method.  In highly toxic conditions use zinc oxide prevention as for sheep.
· Provide supplementary feed (crops, fodder, hay or silage) to reduce grazing pressure on toxic pastures.

A recent paper by Waikato-based Cognosco investigated intramammary infections in goats through lactation. The highest incidence rate of new infections occurred in early lactation but the prevalence of IMI increased with stage of lactation. This is probably because of the long-lasting nature of the most common bacterial infection in goats (Coagulase negative staphylococci), which can persist for up to 7 months. Staph aureus is also common, but tends to cause a higher somatic cell count (SCC).

The nature of the mastitis seemed to be contagious, so control measures to reduce prevalence as well as transmission may be effective in controlling IMI: teat spraying, optimal milking machine function, and milker hygiene.

IMI was found to increase gland SCC, but only affected Bulk Tank SCC in early lactation, as goats’ SCC increases later in lactation anyway. Stress can also cause a rise in SCC.

Covid-19 Update 😷

To our wonderful clients, we are working hard to keep you and our team safe during this current climate. Unfortunately, even with protocols in place, people are still being impacted by this illness and that includes our team. We are managing this the best we can but there are times when we are not fully staffed.

Please be advised there may be longer wait times, days where we cannot offer our full range of services, and changes to our usual hours. Please be patient with us.We may have to reschedule your appointment at short notice as we take care of our staff too. We are sure you will appreciate that we are working exceptionally hard to provide the best care for your pets.

Thank you for your understanding and we will keep you updated as we work through the next few weeks.

Monday 8am - 7pm
Tuesday 8am - 7pm
Wednesday 8am - 7pm
Thursday 8am - 5pm
Friday 8am - 5pm
Saturday 8am - 12:30pm
Sunday 9am - 12noon