Five tips for first-time lambing

With lifestyle block sales booming over the last two years, there’ll undoubtedly be some green sheep owners nervously facing their first-ever lambing. Here are some of the best ways to prepare.

Words: Michael Andrew

1. Know where the lambing will take place. It’s important to know where your ewes will be when they lamb. Ensure there’s adequate shelter for your ewes, and if they are in a paddock, that it’s slightly sloped to protect them from wind and rain.

Don’t move or disturb an ewe and her lambs within 24 hours of the birth to allow for close bonding. Ideally, you’ll have them close by so you can check on them regularly.

2. Ensure there’s enough feed and water. Ample feed – long pasture, hay, silage and a high protein grain supplement – is critical for ewes during the last four to six weeks of their pregnancy to ensure lambs are a healthy weight.

Abundant, good quality pasture is the key to healthy, fast-growing lambs when they start to eat, usually at around one month old. Plenty of ryegrass, lucerne, clover and chicory with a high green leaf content is ideal feed during those early stages.

Provide clean water in troughs but make sure they are covered to prevent lambs drowning.

3. Make sure lambs are suckling. Just because a lamb might appear to be nuzzling below a ewe doesn’t mean it’s actually feeding.

You’ll need to check each ewe’s teats are working well and lambs have full bellies. Triplet lambs will need to be supplemented with a bottle or bottle-fed exclusively.

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4. Prepare a lambing kit. This should include a headlamp, iodine, lubricant, long gloves, a bottle and nipple, a thermal blanket and a thermometer. Talk to your vet about having doses of antibiotics, an energy supplement (eg, Ketol) and calcium on hand.

Freeze colostrum from your first lambing ewes and freeze it in case you need to hand-feed. A lamb needs 200ml per kg in its first 24 hours.

5. Get advice. If you’re new to lambing, reach out to an experienced neighbour. Consult your vet about drenching your stock and about an effective vaccination programme for mothers (before they give birth) and babies.

NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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