Lambing watch has officially started! We are just over a week from the start of Fiona’s estimated due dates, as estimated by an ultrasound early in her pregnancy. This morning we have seen some signs that she is definitely getting to the end of pregnancy.
In preparation for lambing, we have assembled a kit of supplies we might need during lambing. I think each shepherd’s lambing kit will look a little bit different based on their situation, but many things are probably in everyone’s kit. Our kit is put together with our specific situation in mind.
All items that need to stay clean have been put in ziploc bags after cleaning. And we put everything together into a big plastic tub with a lid. We are not keeping it in the barn because we are still getting below freezing some nights. The mud room doesn’t freeze, but is easy access to grab the kit and take it to the barn.
We are over an hour away from the closest large-animal vet, we are also over an hour away from a vet supply or ranch store that would have what we might need to buy last-minute. We only have three ewes, not a large flock, and this is our first year lambing. With those things in mind, here is what we put in our lambing kit:
Old Towels & Paper Towels
It is pretty obvious what these are for. Drying off the lamb, clearing the mucous from the nostrils, drying and wiping hands, etc.
Lamb Pulling Ropes
In case we need to re-position or pull a lamb.
Our favorite sheep book is Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep. It has good, detailed information about lambing and different problems that might arise. We want to have this book in reach for reference if a tough situation comes up.
For trimming the navel if necessary, along with many other potential uses.
Sometimes lambs have a sharp tooth and it makes the ewe not want to let it nurse. This is to file it a bit if necessary.
Notebook & Pen
For jotting things down as the process goes along. Especially the time that different things occured. If there are problems, it is important to know how long the ewe has been in labor and how long she has had issues. Knowing this helps one make better decisions about intervention.
Flashlight and Headlamp with New Batteries
Barns are dark…enough said. 🙂
Navel Dip Cup
This can be any type of small containers. They are available to buy, or you can use a baby food jar, a shot glass, etc. We have a cleaned-out small sour-cream container and the case that a 12cc syringe came in. Not sure which one we will use, we will decide when the time comes.
For navel dipping and for cleaning our hands and the ewe if we need to help re-position a lamb.
Latex gloves, OB gloves, and OB Lubricant
In case we need to re-position or pull a lamb.
To help nutritionally boost a weak lamb.
Lamb Milk Replacer & Colostrum Supplement, Lamb Nipples and Bottles
In case we have a rejected or orphaned lamb that needs to be bottle fed. Or if we have a ewe that doesn’t make enough milk for her lambs. We plan to milk out some colostrum from each ewe this year and freeze it so that we will have it available next year for any rejected or orphaned lambs. But since this is our first year, and thus we don’t have any on hand, we decided to buy colostrum supplement this year just in case.
Lamb Stomach Tube
We are reluctant to use this and will only use it if it is absolutely necessary to save a lamb’s life. I have successfully tubed a horse and a cow before, but it is dangerous and we would like to avoid it at all costs if possible. We decided to have it on hand just in case.
Syringes of different sizes
These have multiple uses, including force feeding a lamb that can’t suck, and giving injections.
Elastrator & Lamb Bands
We will be using the Elastrator for tail docking and castrating. Tail docking will happen the 2nd or 3rd day of life, and castration around the 10th day of life. So these aren’t technically part of lambing, but we put them in there as a safe, clean place to keep them. As suggested in the Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep, we are storing our bands in a shallow jar of rubbing alcohol. This keeps them clean and sanitized, and we can dip the Elastrator tool in it right before use to sanitize it.
That is everything in our lambing kit.
Because we live so far away from a large animal vet, we have a very thorough vet kit as well. A few items in the vet kit that might be necessary for lambing and after lambing are:
Syringes & Needles
For giving injections
If we have to go into the uterus for any reason we will be giving the ewe a shot of penicillin afterwards to prevent infection.
Ewes can suffer from pregnancy toxemia in the weeks before birth or right after birth. It has to do with a ewe not having high enough calorie intake. It is most common with twins and triplets because the lambs are taking so much nutrition and so much space that she can’t ingest enough feed to keep up with their needs. Ketone dip strips are how this is diagnosed.
Earlier this week we did a ketone test on Fiona just to be safe, since we know she is expecting at least 2 lambs and this is our first year of feeding pregnant ewes. We built this high-tech veterinary urine gathering device:
…from a plastic cup, a stick, and some duct tape. 😉
We hung around behind Fiona for awhile waiting for her to do her thing and eventually caught some urine in the cup. These are the fun parts of being a shepherd, right? Then we followed the directions on the test strip package and found that she was doing fine. We will test again if needed, but we are supplementing the ewes with grain and they should all be doing fine as far as nutrition goes.
This is what we would use to treat a ewe found to have pregnancy toxemia.
Calcium Gluconate and Milk Fever Paste
Medications needed to treat milk fever.
Some of these items might be over-kill for a backyard farmer with a vet and vet-supply store cloes by. But for us, isolated from those things, we want to have all our bases covered in case of an emergency.
We are hopeful that none of these things will need to be used. The breeder our ewes came from has spent many generations breeding for ease of lambing and ewes accepting their lambs. We will most likely walk out and find lambs already born and doing well, or just watch them deliver but not have to intervene. But it is always a good idea to be prepared just-in-case.