Every late Winter, early Spring our ewes make preparations to bring fourlegged beauties into the barn, Sometimes they arrive as singles, doubles, and triples. But, more isn’t always errier. More lambs, mean more mouths to feed and more vigilance on the part of the sheep farmer. A farmer must be prepared ahead of lambing to insure that all goes as smoothly as possible.
What’s in the Kit?
- Nutritional supplements
- Temperature regulators
- Medical materials
- Handling equipment
- Lambing Record Book
Saving a Weak Lamb
Preventing lamb loss is the modus operandi. Sometimes, lambs enter the world fighting an uphill battle that can be quickly turned around with a few different nutritional supplements, purchased and or prepared at home. This would include selenium, vitamin A & D, propylene glycol, molasses, and gatorade for electrolytes. Nutri-drench is a product that can be purchased online that meets the specifications of all of the supplements previously listed and comes in an all-n-one product that can revitalize weak lambs, stimulate diet, correct diarrhea, and provide energy for adult sheep when needed. 4 ccs immediately after birth provide enough of the supplement to give the weak lamb a boost. In the event of a very weak lamb a lamb reviver can be used to get the nutri-drench directly to the stomach lining.
Staying Warm on Those Cold Nights
Lamb jackets or coats are an absolute must for extra cold nights. We make lamb coats from sleeves off of old adult sized sweaters to use our diminutive Shetland lambs, which can weigh anywhere between 5 and 8 lbs at birth. With Shetlands having small lambs the coats come in handy during those cold nights where temperatures in Northern, New Brunswick, Canada can plummet well below zero. It will pay handily to find plans for lamb coats or lamb coats if your lambing occurs in a cold environment.
Being your Own Vet
Nothing can replace the necessity for a livestock vet, but knowing how to give care to your animals can greatly reduce the bills and give you peace of mind. Shortly after a lamb is born and you’ve had a chance to inspect the lamb for indicators of good health, you’ll need to apply iodine to the naval. I always wait for the mother to clean and bond with the lamb. Lamb rejection is an issue you don’t want to deal with when you have multiple ewes giving birth during lambing period. To apply the iodine, you can lay the lamb on its side or keep them standing. With a few mL of atleast 7% iodine, place the umbilical cord in the jar containing the iodine and gently swirl the cord so that it is completely immersed in the liquid. Count to 30 and remove the container. The ewe may inspect the navel but will stay away after tasting the iodine.
I also keep unopened needles and syringes in the kit to administer antibiotic, dewormer, and vitamins. The vet will gladly give you a few, if you are in need. Needles and syringes are a necessity for administering anti-biotic and painkillers in the event that the inevitable sickness touches your flock.
A key principle of flock management involves record keeping and animal identification. I tag ears within the first couple weeks of life when the ewe and ram lambs are easier to catch. A handling system would be ideal, especially when using RFIDs (Radio Frequency Idenitification), but for my purposes with a small Shetland flock catching them in their jugs or pens is easiest. After the are safely in my hands and restrained, I place the tag in the applicator with the male end of the tag on the front side of the ear, away from the blood vessel that travels down the center line of the ear. Quick press and release and the tag is applied.
Getting the Assist
There are times when a farmer will have to assist in the delivery of a lamb that is either mal-presented in the birth canal or simply too large. I keep sterile gloves and lubricant (Vaseline) to help ease the passage of a lamb and avoid picking up any bacteria at the birth site. These two items are an absolute must have at lambing time and you’ll beam with pride as you peel off your gloves into one another to cast them aside and relish the moment of a newborn lamb safely with its mother.
When Push Comes to Shove
There are several tools that should be found in a lambing kit and are a necessity: Lambing ropes, prolapse spoons, and a lamb reviver (stomach tube). Each of these tools come in handy for sticky situations with lamb dystocia, ewe prolapse, and weak lambs. Lambing ropes facilitate the delivery of ‘stuck’ lambs with slippery legs. Prolapse spoons work to hold a prolapsed uterus in place until a vet arrives. Lamb savers work to strengthen weak lambs that need direct administration of drench to the stomach.
Odds and Ends
A well-balanced lambing kit is your best defense against loss in those days that all the girls decide to pop. Take the time to purchase or make the goods that you need to put yourself in the position of best practice. Loss will inevitably happen but accepting loss does not have to be your only choice. Prepare yourself to be the best possible Farmer you can be with your sheep. Keeping a sheep record book in your kit, even if you track your flock with on the computer, makes it ready to note all important details related to the lamb including weight, ewe, condition at birth, etc. Having a kit prepared makes quick thinking decisions turn into quick thinking actions!