Lamb marking To Do list

Tablelands Telegraph - August 2022

We have suddenly reached that time of year where sheep producers are either in the midst of lamb marking or it’s on the list of upcoming jobs. Lamb marking is important in setting up the health of the animal, and if done poorly has the potential to result in disease outbreaks.

Below are a few things to keep in mind when planning.


The level of hygiene implemented at marking can have the biggest impact on recovery and prevention of post-marking disease outbreaks.

During marking, open wounds are made – creating the perfect route of entry for bacteria. There are not only bacteria in the environment which we must reduce contact with, but also bacteria spread via blood between lambs (Mycoplasma ovis).

There are a few simple steps that can be done:

  • sterilise ear marking pliers in antiseptic solution between lambs
  • regularly change needles
  • apply Tri-Solfen on appropriate wounds (see pain relief below) as it contains an antiseptic
  • have lambs dropping out of cradles onto a drop mat that is regularly washed down with antiseptic solution


Vaccination should be done using the right technique, the correct site and the appropriate needle size. Clostridial vaccines and Gudair should be given under the skin (sub-cutaneously) on the side of the neck, with the ¼ inch needle at a 45 degree angle.

If given too deeply, the inflammation caused by the vaccine will cause muscle damage that needs to be trimmed and Gudair if given too closely to the spinal vertebrae can result in ‘Gudair staggers’ – a syndrome caused by the inflammation site impacting the spinal cord.

Some of the most common vaccinations include:

  • Clostridial vaccination: 5in1 or 6in1 are key in preventing some of the most commonly seen diseases in sheep – black disease, black leg, malignant oedema, pulpy kidney, tetanus +/- cheesy gland depending on if you choose to vaccinate with 6in1. With a promising Spring ahead with lush good quality feed on offer, Clostridial vaccines will be pulling their weight. The first primer dose should be administered at marking and then the booster 4-6 weeks later (typically at weaning). The second dose is important in establishing a robust immune response that is primed and ready to respond to clostridial diseases. In lambs on challenging feed (for example lucerne), it is recommended that a booster is provided every 3 months.
  • Scabigard: Scabigard is a live vaccine providing protection against scabby mouth (Orf virus) that is scratched onto the skin under the forelimb. Orf virus is excellent at surviving for long periods in the environment, so once on a property it tends to remain. If you have orf present, it is recommended that you vaccinate to prevent uncontrolled outbreaks.
  • Gudair: Gudair is the only registered vaccine for Ovine Johnes disease. Gudair should be administered to all breeding stock to be retained (ewe lambs & rams), and all wethers that are to retained for 2 years or more. As a mineral based vaccine, correct placement of the vaccine is important in reducing unwanted side effects from the inflammatory response.
  • Erysipelas vaccination: There are multiple vaccines available on the market that provide protection from erysipelas – a common bacterial cause of arthritis. Glanery is a combined vaccine including protection from both clostridials as well as erysipelas. If erysipelas is causing arthritis in your lambs post marking, it can be an excellent tool with fantastic results. It is important to establish if erysipelas is the cause of arthritis, as there are many different causes of bacterial arthritis. Vaccinating for erysipelas will only assist if erysipelas is the causative agent in your flock. Diagnosing the cause of arthritis on farm is easy to do with your vet. Once confirmed on farm, the schedule of vaccination will depend on when outbreaks of erysipelas arthritis are typically seen in your flock.


The seasonal conditions this year have resulted in many properties having higher than usual larval contamination of pastures. This has resulted in our District Vets seeing what is usually an uncommon scenario of lambs at foot having high worm egg counts prior to, or around the time of lamb marking.

Utilise worm egg counts to establish what the worm burden is in both the ewes and in the lambs (if 8 weeks or older) pre-marking. Based on your worm egg counts and property history, discuss with your vet if your lambs need a drench and if so, what the best drench would be to use.

Drench choice is important, not only so an effective product is chosen, but also so that the risk of toxicity from overdose is reduced.

Some producers have opted to manage ewes at pre-lambing with long-acting drenches but it is important to remember that the lambs at foot have still been exposed if pasture contamination was high.

Pain relief

There are many options for pain relief at marking. The addition of even just one method of pain relief is better than none. The choice of product can be based on what would work in with your marking system, for example to give an injection of meloxicam under the skin is often an easy addition to the process.

Different products target different pain receptors, and so utilising more than one product (multi-modal pain relief) is always more effective.

Ideally a combination of a product containing short acting pain relief provided by lignocaine would be combined with the long-acting pain relief of meloxicam.



Route of administration

When is it useful?

Duration of pain relief?

Where do you purchase?


Lignocaine (local anaesthetic), Bupivicaine (longer acting pain relief), Adrenaline (to reduce bleeding & prolong anaesthetic action) & Cetrimide (antiseptic)

Spray on wound

On open wounds (e.g. mulesing or surgical tail docking wound)

24 hours

Local ag retailer



Oral gel administered between the molar teeth & cheek.

Long acting anti-inflammatory & pain relief.

Approx. 3 days


Metacam20 or Meloxicam20


Injection under the skin.

Long acting anti-inflammatory & pain relief.

Approx. 3 days




Using the Numnuts applicator, when the ring is applied lignocaine is injected into the scrotum or tail.

When using rings.

Approx. 45 minutes




Injected into the spermatic cords & scrotum.

When castrating.

Use should be discussed with your vet (risk of overdose if mis-used).

Approx. 45 - 1 hour


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