1 HOUR SHEEP FARMING WEBINAR: https://bit.ly/Sheepx3Webinar
2021 LAMBING VIDEOS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qhe6…
By popular request, I am giving a full recap of Lambing in 2022. Most of my lambs were born in March and April, but I had a few surprises born here in November and December.
I am going to talk about how I prepare for lambing, the complications that popped up this season and how I addressed them, and then at the very end I am going to give you a complete look at my cast of characters for 2022 (this may or may not include a lamb with a strong resemblance to Barney Fife).
I am hosting a free webinar in January on the basics of raising, grazing, and marketing sheep. Spots are limited so reserve yours using the link below. If you are watching this after the live workshop, you will be able to watch the replay through that same link :).
I did a lot of prep in the two weeks leading up to my official lambing season. First was to make sure I had all of my supplies on hand. I am going to share with you the various supplies that I used throughout lambing. Some of these products are not easy to find on local level. In light of this problem, I spent some time getting distribution rights for these supplies and have bundled them all into what I am calling The Shepherdess Essentials Bundle which is available at Shepherdess.com. Having these supplies on hand is going to save a lot of money in vet bills and maybe even a few lives so no matter what phase of the game you are in, make sure to order this bundle of products on hand.
Second was to prep the lambing shed with fresh bedding, and run a pre-lambing inspection on all my ewes. Here I am primarily checking for parasites and deworming any ewe with a notable parasite load. A ewe’s immune system dips at lambing and during lactation so parasite loads left unchecked can become a major issues.
Issue #1 that cropped up this year was a need for assisted delivery. I assisted about 8 ewes and 6 of 8 were a result of malpresentation. A lamb presenting correctly will have two hooves pointing forward and the nose resting right on top. The problem that kept recurring was that my lambs were coming out with only one foreleg forward. This added a lot of bulk to the shoulders.
Now this is a pretty common malpresentation. Sometimes a ewe can birth a lamb that presents this way just fine, however there were two factors that did not make that the case for these 6 ewes. First, many of the ewes were first time moms and the lambs were very large singles, not the moderately sized twins that you want. For this reasons the ewe would pass the head and the foreleg but those big shoulders would get caught. Despite pushing for an hour or more, the lamb would not pass.
In assisting these ewes, I would give them some time to attempt to deliver the lamb on their own. Once it had been about 45 minutes with no progression I’d go in to assist. When I could, I would push the head back in to the birth canal and draw both of the legs forward. Most times however, the lamb was too far delivered to push it back. In such cases, I would take the leg that was coming forward and pull it out as far as I could (this frees up some space for those broad shoulders), then I would pull the lamb by the neck and leg in a sort of c-curve toward the udder.
If the ewe was still contracting, I’d pull with contractions, otherwise I just went for it.
For 2 of these malpresentated deliveries, the ewe went into labor overnight. When I did my check in the early morning I found the first ewe in some significant distress. I was able to deliver her lamb, but the ewe was really non-responsive as a result of exhaustion. I gave her a shot of Vitamin B, which is a great means of replenishing energy after a stressful situation. (Vitamin B and the needles and syringes to administer it is going to be in the Shepherdess Essentials Bundle I have linked below) She came to and followed the flock out to pasture, before realizing her maternal duty.
The second ewe had also been laboring overnight. The lamb was badly hung and had been for several hours. “Hung” means that the head had been hanging outside of the birth canal for a pretty long time. This typically results in the lamb being strangled. I caught the ewe and helped her pass this limp lamb with an extremely swollen head. I was so disappointed because to this point I had not lost any lambs. I pulled the lamb assuming it was dead. I put it up by the moms head so that she could at least see it and I just turned and said ” Thank you, Lord I am so sad this one died, but—” Then, all of the sudden the lamb let out a huge sneeze.
It turns out I issued a premature death sentence… and I have never heard a more beautiful sound than that sneeze.
She had a huge welcoming committee.
Again, I followed this birth up with a Vitamin B shot for the ewe as she was also pretty well paralyzed with exhaustion. Within just a few minutes she was up on her feet and nursing her lamb. It took a full 24 hours for the swelling in the lamb’s head to go down, but thankfully it didn’t keep her from nursing.
When it came to the mastitis I had 2 cases of mastitis I treated differently. Mastitis is an infection of the mammary glands that can inhibit the function of the udder and compromise the new lamb. The first case of mastitis I caught before the ewe gave birth. The udder was feverish and lumpy, it had a reddish-purple tint, and was almost sweaty to the touch. I made the decision to give the ewe a 3 day antibiotic regimen before delivery.
I want to make a note here about my opinion on the use of antibiotics, shots, modern medicine on the farm. When I start to talk about shots I sometimes get comments from very well-intended individuals who will say things like “healthy flocks don’t need shots” or “don’t baby your sheep”.
I welcome any opinions, but I’ll also feel free to be bold with mine: I hold to the principle that the judicious application of modern medicine within flocks is good animal husbandry.
This antibiotic regimen was finished about 9 days before the ewe gave birth. Once she raised and weaned the most beautiful set of twins. This ewe did die shortly after weaning. She was old and the mastitis was likely just a symptom of aging out. But she raised an amazing set of lambs before she left the farm.
The second case of mastitis was much more severe. I did not catch this case until the lambs were born. Her udder was rock hard on one side. For this ewe, I did an inter-mammary infusion. (which again, will be in the Shepherdess Essentials Bundle available a Shepherdess.com)
This process was really unpleasant, because I had to flip the ewe on her back and put this tool up her—- and squeeze the solution directly into her udder and then massage her udder for 60 seconds. She hated it, I hated it, we all hated it. But this allowed her to regain enough function to feed her offspring. Now this ewe was culled, but I did provide her with what she needed to get past this issue.
I also want to talk about my portable lambing jug. This little unit was a life saver! During lambing I continued my rotational grazing program. At certain points the rotation put me out of range of my main shed. The portable jug gave me a confined area to treat any issues that popped up. If I needed to treat a mom (such as in the case of mastitis) I would simply put her lambs in there and she’d follow me in for treatment. It was a little bit heavy, but I could pull it a short distance with my body weight, or an atv if the distance was longer.
Excellent maternal instinct is a Dorper breed characteristic, and the ewes in my flock are really living up to that. Once a lamb is born healthy, the ewes will do the rest.
One thing I did make sure to do this year was have supplemental colostrum ready as well as a lamb feeding tube with me at all times. (you guessed it, the feeding tube and colostrum replacer is in the Shepherdess Essentials Bundle!)
Colostrum or not really is life or death for a young lamb. If I have a ewe that is producing a surplus of colostrum, I will milk her and freeze that colostrum for a future need. Otherwise I use a good quality powdered colostrum replacer.
While a feeding tube can be intimidating, it is my go-to over a bottle. I can fill the lambs belly in 3 or 4 minutes. Once I am done the lamb hops straight back to it’s mom and resumes nursing with no problems. If you are supplementing because a ewe does not have enough milk, something to keep in mind is that the more the lamb suckles, the more milk the ewe will produce. We have found that bottle feeding can cause what is known as nipple confusion. The bottle’s will alter the sucking reflex of the lamb in such a way that it will have difficulty latching back on to the mom. The feeding tube allows the ewe and the lamb to maintain that nursing bond. I will use a bottle once I have deemed that the lamb is going to be a bottle baby for life.
The final issue I had was with a lamb that was born wobbly, weak, knock kneed, and had a curved spine. These symptons are commonly linked to selenium deficiency. I went ahead and administered .25ml of BOSE under the skin. BOSE is a selenium-vitamin E shot. The following week, I gave the lamb one more .25ml shot. BOSE is available by prescription only through your vet, so I have not included it in my Essentials Bundle, but have referenced it on the pamphlet inside of the bundle. This will give you the exact product to request from your vet.
Now for the cast of characters. As much as I try to play professional shepherdess, I always end up naming a few lambs. This year was a B theme. We ended up with… get ready for it: Bruce, the giant ram lamb. Betsy, with the black spot. Bandit with the masked markings, and Barney Fife. I’ll let you decide if there is any resemblance ;).