We were determined to bring the ewes inside as near to due date as possible as we felt they were in too long last year resulting in a lot of potential prolapses – factors contributing to this are being overweight and lack of exercise so the longer they are outside the better. We brought them in just before we had some very bad weather forecast on March 7th and first lamb born March 10th.
Prior to bringing them in there was our usual preparation of the lambing shed, with 4 distinct areas – the waiting room, nursery 1, nursery 2 and the individual pens.
All the areas except the individual pens can be extended or made smaller using the gates as needed. Self explanatory really, when the ewes first come in the waiting room is obviously the largest area with no nursery needed and then a small area created as lambs are born etc….
Once they have given birth (or just before) we move them into one of the individual pens for 24/48 hours for some bonding time. This allows us to observe how the lambs are feeding and the ewe is coping. The lambs have their navels sprayed with iodine to prevent infection, the boys have their testicles ringed and the girls their tails ringed. The individual pens get full in the middle of lambing and we sometimes have to create areas within the main lambing shed – a little difficult as the tiny lambs seems to have an incredible knack of escaping and the other ewes like to ‘mismother’ which can cause problems. The individual pens are cleared out and disinfected between each new lamb/ewe and allowed to dry for 12 hours, then fresh straw is put back in ready for the next new born. As soon as the ewe and new lamb go into the pen, they are sprayed with their sequence number, this allows us to match them up if they get separated. We started a new system this year of recording who is in which pen as when we are really tired and all the pens are full we get very confused as to how long they have been in there! We have a slate board hanging on the front of each pen – we record the date the ewe went in and what sex the lambs are. Occasionally if the ewe and lamb(s) need extra TLC we will join 2 pens together to give more space ie with tiny triplets.
Providing all is straightforward they are then moved into nursery 1 for the very young lambs, again this means we can observe what is going on – ie if the lambs are getting equal time on the teats and no-one is being left out. Depending on numbers and weather they are then moved onto nursery 2 where they will stay until the weather is good enough to put them outside into the fields. This area tends to be mayhem……
The sooner they go out the better as this minimises any infection risk.
The biggest thing we learnt this year is that we need to incorporate checking the ewes teats are both working and she is producing colostrum once they have given birth, sometimes they get blocked by a plug which is easy to remove initially. We think not doing this may have contributed to the 4 cases of mastitis this year despite putting in extra disinfection routines, we also had 6 threatened prolapses despite waiting until the last minute to bring the ewes inside. All the lambs (8 of them) from the mastitis ewes had to be bottle fed, plus 2 lambs from a ewe which just died in the field ( we have no idea why). This meant a lot of extra work……..
All the prolapse ewes lambed successfully, one even through a prolapse harness which wasn’t planned…..
When we had the ewes scanned in January we were pleased that there weren’t so many sets of triplets as there is usually one much weaker one (also no quads!!). However the scanning wasn’t quite so accurate and we had 2 or 3 ewes which had been scanned as twins and actually had triplets, another learning curve. Always check to see there aren’t any left behind!!
We will have to be very hard this year and once the lambs have been weaned have all the ewes which have given us problems culled, we will keep some of the ewe lambs from last year to maintain the flock size as we have a different ram now – the lovely Perry.