Using the lambing supplies I listed in yesterday's post, here is our action plan:
- Clean and dry: If the ewe hasn't done so already, or if she has more lambs than she can handle at one time, we assist her by wiping the lambs down with clean towels. We really encourage the ewe to do some of the job herself as it helps significantly with the bonding process and getting the lambs going.
- Weigh each lamb, using the lamb sling and hanging scale. A plastic bag can be used in a pinch, but a sling with a strap that goes across the front of the lamb to hold them in place works really well. We record each weight in our barn book, a notebook that stays in the barn at all times.
- Clip and dip: Using alcohol to sterilize the scissors, we clip the umbilical cord 1-2 inches from the belly. Blunter scissors are preferred because the slight tearing action, as opposed to a sharp cut, helps minimize bleeding. We pour fresh iodine into our dipping cup (any container with a mouth about 2 inches in diameter; a baby food jar works well), hold the cup so it forms a tight seal on the lamb's belly, and then hold the lamb belly-up to soak the area around the umbilicus, so everything is liberally covered with iodine. We do this after weighing so the iodine doesn't rub off on the lamb sling.
- Probiotic & selenium E gel: We give each lamb half a dose of both.
- Strip: At this point, we put the ewe in a jug with her lambs. We don't have our ewes lamb in the jugs because there is not enough room for them to move around and change position comfortably. We strip the plugs out of her teats if the lambs haven't done so already. If they have, it's a good sign that they already got their first dose of colostrum. We make sure that all the lambs can find the udder and have latched on before leaving them. We will use a heat lamp if it is really cold and the lambs are having trouble keeping warm, but carefully suspend it above the barn floor and institute frequent checks.
- Feed and water: The ewe is given a nice grass hay (no grain or alfalfa) in a hay rack hung high enough that the lambs can't get their heads stuck in it. We also give a bucket of clean, fresh water, tied to the jug with binder twine so it doesn't accidentally get dumped. We used to give molasses water, but found the ewes prefer plain water.
- Antibiotic: If we had to assist the ewe in any way, she is started on antibiotics and follow up is provided as recommended on the bottle.
Trimming the umbilical cord;
our iodine cup is being held in the background, ready for use
We keep a close eye on the ewe and her lambs for the next few days, to make sure the lambs are getting enough to eat and the ewe is not having any problems with her appetite or udder.
- The lambs are weighed every day, and the results noted in the barn book, to make sure there is appropriate weight gain.
- The temperature of every lamb's mouth is checked with a finger several times a day for the first few days, to make sure they are getting enough to eat and not suffering from hypothermia. A cold mouth requires immediate action.
- The lambs are observed closely to make sure they are all getting a turn at the udder, especially if there are more than two. We also watch to see if they stretch when they get up, another sign that they are getting enough to eat.
- The ewe's udder is checked by hand the first few days, to make sure no hot spots or hardness is developing that might indicate the onset of mastitis or a problem with the lambs nursing.
After 48 hours, we let the lambs and ewe out of the jug. Depending on the weather and status of the lambs, we may keep them in the larger area in the barn while letting the other ewes outside for an additional day or two.
Tomorrow: plans for a simple lamb jacket!