Anna discusses how to prepare for lambing.
Committee members share their top tips.
Plus – what’s in your lambing kit?
Well if ever there was a need for a distraction from the unprecedented developments around the world, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it is now. Hope everyone is keeping themselves and their loved ones safe and well.
Though only a brief diversion in the grand scheme of things, the joy from watching tiny lambs speeding and pronking around the fields is a much-needed tonic after the rigours of the winter months, perhaps even more so this Spring as further challenges lie ahead.
Some of us may already have lambs on the ground, some expected imminently and others planned for late Spring. Lambing is exciting and joyous but none the less stressful, especially for the less experienced. The OSS website has an excellent article on breeding and lambing and at this time of year most smallholder and farming magazines include articles on lambing. There are also many Youtube videos of natural lambing which are an extremely helpful resource not only for the complete novice but also as an exercise in revision for those with limited experience. Watch as many as possible to know what normal is so you will have an inkling when things are not as they should be.
Lambing is lambing regardless of the breed and as a primitive breed the Ouessant despite their size are hardy and “easy lambers” Of course, ewe condition prior to tupping and adequate nutrition during pregnancy are crucial to avoid the metabolic conditions toxaemia and hypocalcaemia that may present in the last six weeks of pregnancy and first few weeks of lactation. Toxaemia, or twin lamb disease can also occur in single lambing ewes. Read and refresh your knowledge of these two conditions, if possible, move your ewes to where more frequent checks can be made and act on any concerns immediately as both these conditions can be resolved with early treatment.
Being prepared by having the right kit of lambing essentials organised in good time and knowing what to look for will avoid stress and panic. At the end of this article Antonia has compiled a list of items your kit may contain dependent on your experience. Lambing rope, stomach tubes and the administration of injectable medications are reserved for those who are knowledgeable, confident and experienced in their use. See Antonia’s lambing kit.
Maximum Observation and Minimum Intervention are the watch words.
Watch from a distance so as not to stress the ewe. Be calm and patient. There is no set timescale on how long it takes for a cervix to dilate. Even if the feet and nose are visible and the ewe is walking around there is no need to panic.
Finally, a valuable tip from sheep guru Tim Tyne (Taken from March 2020 Country Smallholding Magazine) in the event that assistance is needed for the ewe…
“On no account attempt to deal with any complication that you feel may be beyond your level of competence……seek professional help”
In all probability all that will be required from you is an application of umbilical spray or iodine to the neonate.
Happy Lambing everyone
Top Tips for Lambing
We asked the members of the OSS Committee to share their top tips for successful lambing:
“Dag the ewes ahead of lambing – shear off the wool around their bottoms, which can become soiled and matted during birth, and from around their udders, to make it easier for the lamb to find the teats – Kris”
“Have the telephone number of your vet on speed dial in your mobile phone so that you can find it easily if you need it – Antonia”
“Don’t feed the ewes up like commercial sheep in the weeks before lambing as you don’t want them to have big lambs and difficult births – Coral”
“The plastic-coated cord in a lambing aid is stiffer and easier to use than a lambing rope – especially when you can only get your fingertips into the ewe – David”
Get your lambing kit ready in good time, check that items are replaced from last year and that medicines and feeds are in date. What should your lambing kit contain? The following is what’s in my kit – it’s not an exhaustive list but it’s better to be prepared:
- Disposable Rubber Gloves – I use the ‘tough’ type which are a bit thicker and less likely to tear
- Lubrication – comes in plastic bottle with a dispenser tube
- Navel Spray – Iodine or proprietary spray, such as Super 7+
- Surgical Spirit
- Colostrum – I always have a couple of sachets ready in case the ewe doesn’t suckle as the lamb must get this within the first 6 hours
- Teated plastic bottle for feeding (I haven’t used a stomach tube) – a Pritchard teat is best
- Rehydration mix
- Medicines – discuss these with your vet, but I always have:
- Sterile syringes and needles
- Lambing rope or lambing aid
- Old but clean towel
- Torch and batteries – a head torch is really useful
Author: Anna Kelly