TODAY’S SHEEP are Ferraris compared to the Model Ts of a few decades ago. Most will produce multiple lambs so you need to be prepared and the place you always start is with their feeding. Today’s flocks should produce at least 120 lambs weaned for every 100 ewes to the ram, regardless of breed. If not, get help to find out why.
Ewes should have been in good condition at mating and never allowed to run short of feed during pregnancy. In the last 4-6 weeks before lambing they should have been fed some high-energy concentrates to make sure multiple lambs are at least 4.7kg, the optimum birth weight for good survival.
The trouble on too many small farms, where rams often run with ewes all the time, is that you never know when lambs will appear so they are born unnoticed, neglected and die.
If lambing ewes is a new experience, don’t hesitate to get help from a neighbour to see what products and gear you need, what vaccinations the ewes should have and what the lambs may need after birth. Vet clinics will also provide this help and how to safely store animal health products.
Together, wet and cold will kill newborn lambs fast, so some shelter is the first priority, either sheds or simple shelters in the paddock. Woolen or plastic covers for all multiple and small lambs are a good investment, and an old electric blanket is a top idea for hypothermic lambs that need reviving, as it provides a nice constant heat.
Check with your vet about flock vaccinations, what to give and when. Even if ewes have been vaccinated before lambing, check if you need to give lambs a booster at docking. Pulpy kidney and tetanus are the main concerns - the former always seems to kill the biggest lambs - and you may also need to ask about scabby mouth (which humans can pick up) and vaccinate for that too.
Keeping basic records is important. Tag ewes to show their age group. You can then record ewes for culling that have had lambing problems, udder problems, ones which have only had singles, or that did not rear a lamb to weaning.
Many farmers now let ewes rear triplets, but if you want to get lambs off early, it’s better to remove a triplet and hand-feed it, and certainly