Agri Vehicles Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Swayback  (Read 2874 times)


  • Joined Feb 2012
  • South Lincolnshire
« on: April 16, 2013, 02:22:31 pm »
Have a couple of GotlandxTeeswater (75%-25%) lambs who are still v wobbly at a few days old. Mum had a shocking time of it. Was laid down all day trying. Thick brown mucous from back end at teatime followed by a v dead first lamb. A ram lamb next weak but ok then a ewe lamb breech birth. She was a very gurgly girl so we gave Spectam (for rattle belly). They are both still incredibly wobbly on their pins. He's standing a bit better though we believe mum trod on him at some point and he strained to get out from under her feet resulting in some muscles further compromised. He looks like he's been wrung out-head is up and to the right and back end is down and to the left. He's stronger than the girl and, bless him, is trying to bounce around and play with another couple of lambs with a poorly mum in the creche pen. I'm manipulating his head now and then to show him it can in fact go the other way, which it is doing and the back end is getting straighter. Ewe lamb (Gretchen  ;D ) is feeding well but walks like she's drunk. My conclusion was they both have  Swayback to a degree. I know the answer to this is copper but I haven't such a thing to hand and I know I have to be safe in administering as high doses are v harmful. The vet is looking into products for me as it's a special order job. I HAVE got a drench (Farmer's Choice) which contains copper and have thought it may be a good start. Could give a multivitamin injection otherwise. What do you think? Also does it sound like Swayback to you? Obviously I can't put them outside if they need lifting and holding to the teat to feed so there's a long haul ahead.


  • Joined Oct 2010
  • Okehampton
Re: Swayback
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2013, 03:12:34 pm »
has your Vet tested for Schmallenberg ?     It could be swayback but with somany other things happening at present, it would be better to treat for the right thing.     
If it is copper deficiency.... you need to treat asap........otherwise the internal orgams will start to shut down.    You would have to overdose dramatically for copper to be toxic in these cicumstances.........ordinarily one would be careful.


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Swayback
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2013, 03:22:24 pm »
If it is swayback, there's nothing you can do about it now.  The copper deficiency is in utero, when the skeleton is getting laid down - if you and your vet decide it is swayback then you will need to look at copper supplementation of your ewes midway through gestation in future.

I have in the past had lambs that were skew-iff, expecially with the head seemingly unable to turn in the right direction, and lambs that were 'flop-bot' - simply couldn't get on their feet and stay there, and lambs that were squished - rib cages flattened - and almost all came right in time.  I don't think any of these were swayback although I have wondered if the flopbots were linked with copper deficiency - but as they came right I think they couldn't have been.

With swayback they don't come right, they deteriorate as they get heavier and the stresses on the skeleton increase.  In fact it can be unnoticeable in newborns, becoming evident as they grow.  Swayback is a brilliantly descritive name; as they get heavier they get a pronounced sway at the back end as the spine struggles to keep straight.  On the moorland farm, where we did supplement all the ewes, we nonetheless had one wether lamb who had a real side-to-side sway from about 3 weeks old.  We did manage to get him away, however; as soon as he hit the bottom end of target weight and condition, we got him off. 

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Joined Sep 2011
Re: Swayback
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2013, 10:04:44 pm »
There is some thinking that 'swayback' is genetic, so therefore if you have only the one, cull the ewe, if you have several, cull the ewes and the tup to be sure.
Sorry about the little one, i have suspicions that i might have one.  it is upsetting to see

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Swayback
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2013, 08:15:41 pm »
Our vet recommends copper blousing one month before the tups go in.  It's generally caused not by lack of copper in the grazing but by high amounts of minerals like iron and magnesium which prevent the uptake of the copper in the sward.  There's not much research on exactly what constitutes a "Swayback Year" but often unusually dry or unusually wet weather will cause the suppressing mineral levels to be higher than a "normal" year.  Swayback is more upsetting for the shepherd than the lamb, I think.  We have had one or two in the past and always left them as long as was reasonable, so they mostly had a chance to feel the sun on their backs, then took them to the vet.  We had the flock blood-tested and although minerals levels varied from sheep to sheep none were markedly outside the normal parameters.  We concluded the ability to utilise copper may be heritable and culled accordingly.


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