How Do Ewe Prepare for Lambing Season?
Even as we see new lambs being born, we are already thinking about the next lambing season. Which ewes will we keep breeding? Who is ready to retire? Have we met this year's lambing goals? What characteristics do we want in our next breeding rams? This list of questions we ask and reflect on just keeps going. There are so many factors to consider when working to meet specific breed characteristics for your sheep. But these are the big questions and topics we work through over the course of time. There is also the day to day, hands-on work of preparing for new life to come into the flock.
Preparing for lambs to be born is some of the most important work we do. We've planned for their birth, so we take our responsibility to them very seriously. To provide the expectant ewes with all of the energy and nutrition they will need, we begin feeding grain in addition to increasing their hay. The addition of grain begins approximately six weeks from the first due date, and their grain and hay rations will be increased incrementally throughout their pregnancies. About two weeks prior to the arrival of our first lambs we will vaccinate everyone with CD&T. This vaccination protects the mama ewe from Clostridium diseases, one of which is tetanus. As they build antibodies, they will pass them on to the developing lambs. This will give the newborn lambs extra protection until they receive their own vaccination shots.
Facility preparations are just as important. Old bedding is cleaned out of a large pen inside of the barn. The area is then dusted with limestone to dry and disinfect the area. New bedding is spread out and lambing jugs are put into place. The jugs are small pens where the moms can tend to their new lambs without the distractions of the flock. It is also an opportunity for us to be certain the ewe is getting enough food and is doing well after giving birth, and allows us to monitor that lambs are eating and gaining weight.
There are a variety of items we like to have on hand to help give the best care possible. We have clean towels, veterinary ob gloves, disinfectant lubricant, and a pulling rope in case we need to assist with a delivery. For after lambs are born we have 7% Iodine to spray the umbilical cord and a scale and sling to weigh lambs for monitoring growth. A dry erase board is in our barn so we can write down who gave birth, note how many lambs, ram or ewe, color, and birth weights. We can also use this board to track medication amounts and doses given if that is necessary. For after care of the mom, we have molasses which we put into warm water to help her recover from the delivery. We do keep antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory on hand. We consult with our veterinarians as to any health concerns and can medicate immediately if necessary. We also have a heating pad we can use if we find a chilled lamb who needs help. We wrap them in a blanket and then put them inside of our coat with the heating pad to help raise their body temperature. Other necessary items are baby wipes to easily clean lambs (and ourselves!), ear tags, and bands for tails. Lastly, don't forget the coffee, cookies, and chocolate! You are going to need your favorite coping foods to get you through the sleep deprivation, stress, and worry that brings with it the joy of lambs!