Hopefully you got through lambing without too many problems and now have a fine batch of healthy lambs to grow on to your intended market. What this is will vary a little depending upon your enterprise. For some it will be the show circuit and autumn pedigree sales, but for most it will be someone's dinner table! Either way, to achieve a satisfactory end result, proper feeding and care is needed.

We have discussed the importance of feeding ewes well during the run up to lambing in previous articles, but this needs to be continued during the early weeks after lambing as well to ensure they maintain a good milk supply. This is especially important during the first two weeks of a lamb's life as it is almost entirely dependant on milk for its needs. Even during the next few weeks, milk will still play a major part in its growth rate.

To keep your ewes milking well, you can either continue with the mix or cake you fed during the steaming up period or your can swap to some alternative. Whatever your choice, ensure the protein content is at least 16% and introduce any changes gradually. We often used to feed a mix of sugar beet and oats as my father was a big fan of oats, claiming they encouraged milk production. I haven't found any scientific fact to support this claim, but our ewes seemed to do well on it!

Lambs will begin to nibble hay from around 10 days so ensure good quality hay is available at all times and also a clean water supply. Be very careful with hay racks and troughs! You would be surprised how these can easily become death traps when small heads and legs become trapped in home made racks and troughs, without proper precautions, can easily drown an inquisitive youngster.

Again, from about 10 days begin offering lamb pellets. These can be fed ad-lib or given as separate feeds twice a day. If you're looking to finish lambs early, then ad-lib is probably better as they will eat more and there is less risk of gorging which can lead to a very alarming condition where the lamb froths at the mouth and looks very distressed. Most recover, but losses have been known.

Of course, if you are lambing in the spring and finishing on grass alone, you will not be feeding any concentrates or maybe just a little. If this is the case, don't expect your lambs to finish early and if you are breeding pedigree sheep, it is doubtful that they will make the correct size for the autumn ram sales. Having a good understanding of your enterprise really is vital if you are to keep costs down.

Assuming you are offering your lambs some form of supplementary feeding you may need to prevent greedy ewes scoffing their offspring's rations. To do this you will need to construct some kind of creep. Proprietary feeders are available which consist of a hopper which is filled with food and a series of slats which can be set so that they are only wide enough to allow a lamb's head to pass through.

These more or less keep the ewes at bay, but to be totally successful, we always cordoned off a small area only accessible to the lambs and put the feeder in that.

You must maintain a high level of cleanliness if you want to minimise the risk of disease. Spilt food soon goes mouldy and attracts rats and birds. Both these can spread disease so if feeding in troughs, it is a good idea to wait until feed has been eaten and then turn them over. A good scrub out every now and then won't go amiss either! A lamb creep should also be kept clean and moved away from heavily soiled ground.

As your lambs food intake increase you can decrease the cake given to the ewes. Do this gradually and take into account the quality of grazing. Lush, juicy looking grass may seem like a good deal, but if it has had little sun on it, the feed value can be a lot less than you think! Also, sheep need various minerals which may or may not be present in the ground!

You can have soil tests done, but keep in mind that to achieve good growth rates, lambs need access to Cobalt, Selenium and Magnesium, plus others. To be on the safe side, you might like to provide a mineral bucket or two. These will also help ewes recover their condition after lambing.

Place tubs near to troughs and check regularly to ensure they do not become contaminated with either sheep or bird droppings. If your flock is outside, you'll also need to check that they don't fill with water after an April shower.

Talking of which, do need to provide shelter for your growing lambs? This really depends on your breed and just how bad conditions are. Sheep can generally stand the cold, it's the wet and freezing winds that cause problems and the younger the lambs, the more likely they are to succumb to bad conditions.

Well fenced fields with thick, high hedges will provide some respite from the weather and in most cases will be enough, especially for native breeds. You can also make a temporary shelter by parking a trailer in the field and blocking one end with straw bales if your flock isn't too big! If the weather really is atrocious though, you may be better to just bring the flock in for a few days until it picks up. Freezing, driving rain and very young lambs are not a good mix.

This also holds true for sheep and worms! Worm infestation, especially when it hits lambs, can be quite devastating with affected animals literally seeming to sink before your eyes! To compound matters, worms are catching and within a very short space of time, that one lamb with a wet, faeces matted rear end will soon explode into half a flock of sufferers!

You need a good worming programme to keep infestation at bay and this is best discussed with your vet who will advise on types of worms and specific worming drenches. We always wormed our sheep after lambing and the lambs themselves received their first dose at around one month.

You might think that if the land has been rested all winter then it should be clear of parasite infection. This will be true to some extent, but worm eggs can remain dormant in the soil for a very long time and when the warm, wet days of spring and early summer arrive, they soon wake up and look for a suitable host which can have a devastating effect on your lamb crop!

Newly negotiated sheep EID rules come into force Farmers in England will not have to tag sheep intended for slaughter before they are 12 months old when the new EU Electronic Identification (EID) rules come into force on 31 December this year, Farming Minister Jane Kennedy announced today.

"The exemption from having to record animals that are intended for slaughter before they are a year old could save the industry between £8 million and £11 million per year - and we will continue to work with farmers to ensure that the costs of implementing the new system are as low as possible."

A number of other changes to the EID regulations which will considerably reduce the burden on farmers have also been secured, including: No animals have to be recorded individually on a movement document until 1 January 2011 No animals born before 31 January 2009 have to be recorded individually on a movement document until 31 December 2011 No animals born before 31 December 2009 and moving to slaughter (directly or via a market) have to be recorded individually on a movement document at all.

EID is an EU requirement which becomes mandatory on the 31st December, 2009. More information on the implementation is available at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/livestock.

Pregnant women should take care during the lambing season Pregnant women should avoid close contact with sheep during the lambing season, advices The Department of Health, DEFRA and the Health and Safety Executive. Pregnant women who come into close contact with sheep during lambing may risk their own health and that of their unborn child, from infections that can occur in some ewes.

Although the number of reports of these infections and human miscarriages resulting from contact with sheep is extremely small, pregnant women should be aware of the risks and be ready to take appropriate precautions, including: Not helping to lamb or milk ewes.

Avoiding contact with aborted or new-born lambs or with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or materials (e.g. bedding) contaminated by such birth products; Avoiding handling clothing, boots etc which have come into contact with ewes or lambs.

Pregnant women experiencing fever or influenza-like symptoms, or if concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment should immediately consult their doctor.