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Some helpful tips for lambing season.

I've been meaning to write but have been too busy. "We " are lambing now. Three singles, 15 sets of twins and four more ewes to lamb. All doing well except lost one ewe with her twins. One lamb died inside her and she got toxic shock and died before I could get the vet out. Did a cesarean but the other lamb was dead, too. I think she got squeezed in the door. They are determined to all go in and out at the same time.

A few things that have been helpful for me at lambing: We lamb in a barn that is all box stalls for horses, so instead of small individual lamb pens, I put two to four ewes and their lambs in one stall. Only a "problem" ewe gets partitioned in the corner with a gate. It helps with fighting or young ewes that try to bail out over the top when penned alone. They aren't so silly penned with another sheep or two.

Docking and castrating

I do every lamb's docking and castration with the old fashioned rubber bands at three days old, then cut the tails off at the band at six days. They spend one more night with their own "stall" group and if all is well, go back in the flock at one week. I think leaving the tails on until they stink is just asking to have coyotes or dogs bother the sheep

Also we bring the ewes in the barn or a fenced lot by the house every night right up to weaning time. That way you can spot a problem quicker than in the pasture.

Numbering by the paint

We use the washable paint brand to keep track of lambs and only ear tag the ones we keep. The paint number on each side helps to spot whose lambs are growing best and who has a poor-doing lamb. That way when you make up the cull list you know who your producers really are. Sometimes if you went by looks you would get the wrong ewes. A big stout fat ewe raising a single looks fine but sometimes the thin, run-down ewes are the ones who raised the nicest twins or triplets.

We try not to have a bottle lamb even if it means going to the barn eight or ten times a day to hold a ewe until she accepts her lamb or one you are trying to force her to take. Usually if you force her three days until her milk comes through the lamb and it smells right she will take it. However, sometimes you get a hard case. If you do put a lamb on the bottle or even a part-time bottle, leave him with the ewe and other sheep. That way he will be happier and have a better social adjustment, someone to keep warm with. Most will buddy with their twin even if the ewe only feeds one. If she tries to kill the lamb, pen the old-rip up until you can get her to a sale.

Save time and money

Another money and time saver we have used with our sheep is "if it ain't broke don't fix it." We don't worm or doctor on a schedule. The flock is small and if we see a ewe a little thin or slow, catch her and see why -- a worm pill, needs her feet trimmed, whatever.

Also do two things at once. While they are in the lambing pen and you are doing lamb tests, give mama a drench and/or hoof trim. When they are caught up to be shorn, worm, trim and doctor.

Change pastures as often as you can, cull ewes who are chronic headaches to you whether it's for production or behavior (fence jumpers, overly aggressive to other ewes and lambs, whatever).

Above all, keep records of problems (and successes) at lambing, shearing, who needs doctoring often, etc.

Quick, cheap hay feeder for sheep

This works for hornless, medium-sized or small sheep. Large or horned sheep would likely get their heads stuck. I have Katahdin sheep and this works well for them.

Pick a spot along a fence or building where hay feeding would work. Put a cattle panel upright about 25 inches out from the existing structure supporting it with three equally spaced steel posts. Drive the posts into the ground on the opposite side sheep will be pushing on. (Note: Cattle panels are 16 foot long welded rod lattices with rectangular openings. Hog panels are smaller and will not work.)

Put an additional steel post at each end between the panel and fence or wall, and use wire, boards, whatever, to prevent sheep from going through those spaces.

Drop bale flakes against the fence or wall away from the panel. The sheep will put their heads thru the panel to reach for the hay, and while they'll pull out and waste some hay, most dropped hay will land inside the feeder for later consumption.

This isn't a scientific feeder design, but when you need a feeder fast it's hard to beat. Total cost per 16 feet of feeder runs under $30, and every bit of material is re-useable for the same or other purposes.
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Author:Campbell, Rosie
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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