The birth of lambs
Approximately 50% of all labor in keeping sheep is reflected in lambing. A short lambing gives less work. In some breeds of sheep birth difficulties are more common, particularly due to an incorrect location of the lamb in the sheep. Mostly singleton lambs are born with difficulties, especially with a highly pregnant ewes that have a high feeding level.
Lambing should be well prepared. Not only the lambing shed must be in order, but also all the possible tools and disinfectants must be present before lambing.
This should be present in the lambing shed: colostrum (Colstart Plus), Tincture of iodine (Iodine 10%), lubricant, long gloves, deliver cord, breathing stimulant (Respi Boost), energy booster (Enerfit lamb), uterus pills (Pessaria Capsules), vagina cleanser (Citonol), etc.. See the lambing checklist boerenwinkel.nl
It is important to check the udders of the ewe before and after lambing. If the ewe is not able to give milk, the lamb should be transferred. If there is an other ewe that just gave birth, she could take care the lamb. If this also isn't possible you should provide articficial milk to the lamb at least 3 times a day and then slowly reduce until the lamb is able to eat solid food.
Symptoms indicating that the birth is coming up
• The ewe separates herself: The sheep is a flock animal. If it separates from the flock, there is something wrong. This may be the birth approaching , but may also indicate a disease.
• Restless ewe: the ewe is restless and looking for a place to give birth. Other ewes are sometimes driven away. The ewe will often lie down, get up again, walk around and lie down again.
• Scratching: the ewe scratches with her front legs into the straw.
• Walk in circles: the ewe constantly walks in circles, sometimes this is even vissible in the straw.
• Ewe licks: The ewe licks with her tongue along her lips.
• Looking behind: the ewe keeps looking at her belly, because she feels something 'strange' there. They say that the birth goes more smoothly when the ewe stays in the flock and remains there till after the birth of the lamb. This also has the advantage that the lambing shed does not get wet from the amniotic fluid. After a gestation period of about five months minus five days, the lambs are born.
At birth three periods can be distinguished
• Shortly before lambing: the udder swells, the udder skin is red and thight. The tissue surrounding the birth canal becomes looser and the vulva becomes red and swollen.
• Opening of the cervix: repeated uterine contractions lead to further widening of the cervix. From that point, pressure from the presenting part (head in vertex births or bottom in breech births), along with uterine contractions, will dilate the cervix. Cervical dilation is accompanied by effacement, the thinning of the cervix. This stage lasts for several hours and the ewe tends to isolate herself.
• Birth: the ewe is very restless. The contractions are supported by pressing, therefore the lamb gets deeper into the birth canal before being pushed out. The duration of this period ranges from a half hour to several hours. Most lambs (90%) are born' head first', this is the normal delivery.
The other 10% is born 'breech', this is an abnormal situation where help is needed. The afterbirth comes with singletons about half an hour to several hours after birth. For multiple births, the afterbirth comes a few hours after the birth of the first lamb.
Position: you should always make sure what position the lamb is in. Is it head first, breech position, shoulder position, hip position, beaten back head, shoulder / elbow position.
Head first: this is the normal position.
In this position the lamb lies with his legs straight under its head and right before the birth canal. If the lamb is in this possition and no further problems occur, the lamb will and can be brought into the world without any help.
Note and advice on lambing
Work in a hygienic way, trim finger nails (to prevent damage) and wash hands thoroughly. Your help during labour is only needed when the birth canal and cervix is not spacious enough. Do not force anything! If required, push the lamb back into the uterus. Note that the uterine wall is thin and fragile, so can tear quickly. Did your attempt of helping the ewe and lamb during labout not work? Do not continue but call in an expert. Better to be safe than sorry.
In case of a difficult delivery, you can do the following
• Check the position of the lamb
• Consider how the umbilical cord runs
• If needed apply the Cesarean
• By doing this you often save the ewe and the lamb
When in doubt always ask your veterinarian!
Colostrum is the main food for newborn lambs. It contains much-needed vitamins and antibodies and is rich in energy. Never warm the colostrum in a microwave oven, preferably a bain-marie. Make sure you've also got artificial colostrum (Colstart Plus) available. Colstart Plus approaches the composition of (real) colostrum better than anything else. Do not settle for less!
An ewe that is giving birth should be set apart and the lambing shed should be very well be disinfected
Taking care of a new born lamb
When a lamb has trouble starting to breath it is advisable to grab the lamb on the hind legs, dipping its head briefly in cold water and then to swing back and forth. Remove the muscus from the mouth and nose. After about 30 seconds put the lamb in a breats-prone position and use Respi-Boost as a breathing stimulant (if necessary repeat after 30 seconds). You can help the lamb breathe by standing behind the lamb and hooking you fingers behind the last rib and pull outwards, with flat hands to press the rib walls together. Do this with a frequency of about 10 breaths per minute.
It is also important to keep weaker lambs warm with the help of a heat lamp and administering colostrum + Enerfit Lamb
When the ewe has too little colostrum, you can provide the lamb with artificial colostrum. One sachet is enough in order to give a lamb antibodies to then switch over to artificial lamb milk.
Around birth and the first few days after birth it is very important that the shes where the ewe and lamb stays is clean and dry by using enough straw. This prevents diarrhoea and navel infections in lambs. The risk of a navel infection can also be reduced with navel disinfect immediately after birth, like Iodine 10%. A navel infection may also be the cause of joint inflammation at an age of between 2 days and 21 days old.
Always check about 4 hours after the birth if the lamb has been drinking. When in doubt milk the sheep and provide this to the lamb (if necessary with a Feeding tube). Lambs that have not been drinking immediately after birth, will die from hypothermia within 24 hours after birth. It is known that with proper hygiene and good aftercare immediately after birth this almost never happens.
Sometimes newborn lambs are weak and just are not able to drink (even from a bottle). In that case use (artificial) colostrum and a feeding tube. But how do you do this? prepare the colostrum according to the instructions on the bag and thus fill the syringe. Put the lamb on your lap in sitting position with its back against your belly. insert the feeding tube into the mouth and push it gently into the esophagus. Make sure the lamb swallows! Make sure the feeding tube does not enter the trachea. This is usually noticeable because the lamb resisting or coughing. Attach the syringe to the feeding tube and then slowly empty the syringe. In case of weak lambs it sometimes appears as if 'a light goes on' and behave like any other normal lamb. Also make sure to provide Enerfit Lamb and the future looks bright. If the lamb is not able or allowed to drink from the ewe, turn as quickly as possible to bottle feeding. In any case do not provide milk with a feeding tube for more than two days. Lambs that are not able to tilt their heads are not allowed to be fed with a feeding tube. Try to warm them up well first. If you don't trust it to use the feeding tube yourself, consult an experienced farmer or veterinarian who can demonstate it to you.
We wish you a pleasant and carefree lambing period!