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Preparing for a successful lambing season

Preparing for a successful lambing season

Preparing For The Onset Of Lambing Season

Lambing season is often the busiest and most stressful part of the year for sheep farmers. A whole year of mindfully feeding farm sheep and giving pregnant sheep care and close attention has led to this moment. However, the lambing season can run smoothly with careful preparation and attention to detail.

To be ready, you should be prepared for the first lambs to arrive a few days before the full gestation period. As preparations are made, a few main points must be kept in mind. 

In this article, we will touch on a few key aspects of sheep lambing and outline some essential advice to ensure that ewes are best prepared to birth healthy and strong offspring. 


Have An Action Plan Ready Before Lambing

First things first! Prepare your action plan. 

Make sure that you have an adequate number of trained workers—at least one person for every 250 ewes—and that each team member knows their specific duties.

If lambing indoors, all sheds must be completely cleaned, drained, and ventilated while remaining draught-free. For a 1.3m2 laying area per sheep, each lambing enclosure needs to be at least 2m × 1m in size and furnished with new bedding. Each animal must have access to its own bucket of water and food, and the pens must be thoroughly cleaned.

The best method to ensure that the ewes and lambs receive the assistance and care they require is to set up a separate hospital area away from your lambing area. The health of the ewes and lambs is critical at this time.

For lambing season care, having access to hot water and a power source is equally crucial. Before lambing begins, make sure they are accessible and in perfect functioning order.


Nutrition Tips For Hard Feeding Ewes During Pregnancy

After following our guide to feeding ewes before mating, the next step is nutrition for sheep during pregnancy.

As with feeding goats in the lead-up to labour, ewes require good feed during the last 4-6 weeks of pregnancy to maintain their energy levels. It’s crucial to keep close tabs on your pasture’s health in the weeks leading up to this phase. Low grass availability can indicate less protein intake, so you may need to look for additional feed that has a high protein content.

If supplementation is necessary, which it frequently is, start it gradually (50g per sheep per day) and increase to the recommended doses (about 150-200g per day) over the course of seven to 10 days. However, wheat is not a complete feed, so don’t use it as your only supplement. Magnesium and calcium deficiencies can impact livestock receiving supplements; for advice on the optimal feed for your ewes, consult your veterinarian or Sharpes Farm Feeds.

Use troughs to provide concentrates to your ewes with plenty of room, so everyone gets an equal portion and no waste. Keep plenty of clean, fresh water on hand and salt and molasses licks. Straw that has been cut up can be added to the grain to help animals chew it. Saliva production is boosted with the addition of straw and also helps to prevent the animal’s rumen from creating too much acid, leading to acidosis, which can be fatal.


Indoor Or Outdoor Lambing?

Whilst most lambing in New Zealand is done outdoors due to our favourable climate, that’s not always the case in the rest of the world. There are varied feeding guidelines for lambs that cover both scenarios, but as with most farming situations, you will do your best with what you have.

Small pastures with excellent protection and grass are ideal for lambing outside. While outdoor lambing farms depend highly on the weather, lambs can benefit from being born and raised outdoors, where there are fewer diseases than in a lambing shed. 

However, as the season goes on, paddocks will be grazed or ‘contaminated’ from previous lambings, increasing the need for rotation. Many portions of the paddock grass will be trampled and turned to mud, potentially lowering the amount of grass available for grazing later in the year.

If the weather is atrocious, conditions are better when lambing indoors. Power, water, and lighting are simpler to organise, and you can store supplies nearby. Indoors, however, there is a greater risk of illness accumulation and infections. The expenses and capital commitments associated with housing your ewes are higher, but management is more straightforward.


Common Supplies You May Need During Lambing Season

Before the chaos of sheep lambing begins, now is an excellent time to stock up on the vital supplies you’ll need. We have highlighted some of the main ones required.

  • Disinfectant

The danger of lamb infections can be reduced by using disinfectant in your raising boxes, lambing pens, and trailers before and during lambing. By practising basic cleanliness, the risk of diseases, including arthritis, diarrhoea, and watery mouth, can be reduced.

  • Dextrose

Lambs born in cold or rainy conditions become weak and hypothermic, especially if little colostrum has been consumed. An intra-abdominal injection of 40% dextrose is the most effective way to increase survival rates.

  • Pain medication

Effective pain management can help ewes get up and start eating again more rapidly, which also improves lamb survival. Usually, a single injection is administered under the skin.

  • Iodine Spray

Iodine-sprayed navel cords can prevent navel infections, often known as “navel-ill,” which can result in arthritis, liver or lung abscesses and eventually death. Lambs born in wet or muddy areas are especially vulnerable since the germs that cause these diseases reside in the soil.

  • Lamb colostrum

Lambs require colostrum as their first milk in order to develop their immune systems and thrive. Tube feeding can ensure that your lambs are getting the nourishment and energy they need to survive because the biggest lamb mortality often occurs within the first 24 hours of life.

  • Tube Feeders

Producers of sheep and goats must become proficient in tube feeding young animals. This straightforward process frequently saves the life of a young animal, improving lambing season care, kidding crop rates, and profitability.


In Summary…

In this article, we have covered the basics of how to prepare for lambing season. However, the key advice is you can never be too prepared. 

Ensuring you and your staff work to a well-thought-out plan and have all the necessary equipment, provisions, and medication is an ideal starting point. However, some decisions, such as indoor or outdoor lambing, will purely come down to available facilities.

One thing’s for sure, whether you need deer nutrition or lamb pellets, here at Sharpes Farm Feeds, we provide a friendly, fast and professional service. You can contact us any time to discuss your requirements, no matter how big or small.

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