Country Smallholding - - Feature Breeding Success -

To start with there is that al­limpor­tant lamb­ing/kid­ding box. This needs to con­tain a va­ri­ety of equip­ment, tools and med­i­cal sup­plies just in case things don’t progress as nat­u­rally as they should. Know­ing what can go wrong is use­ful but, to be hon­est, it is best NOT to scare your­self too much by ‘over­read­ing’. Some of the more se­ri­ous prob­lems can only be sorted by a vet any­way and, if you have looked af­ter your ex­pec­tant mums well, you will hope­fully not have any­thing too se­ri­ous to deal with. But, be­cause you might, one of the most im­por­tant things you must have is your vet’s num­ber pro­grammed into your mo­bile phone and to make sure yours is al­ways charged up and with you.

Back to that box, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der th­ese are rec­om­mended items and why you should have them: (huge thanks to Wowie Dun­nings (South Downs) and An­drew O’Shea (Lin­colnshire) for al­low­ing me to ‘peek’ in­side theirs).


If you have been in­structed how to do it (via a vet or on a course) or are su­per com­pe­tent and con­fi­dent, any in­ter­nal help or ex­am­i­na­tion of your ewe or nanny must be pre­ceded by put­ting on a pair of med­i­cal gloves and lib­er­ally ap­ply­ing lu­bri­cant to your now gloved hands! There are var­i­ous rea­sons why you might need to in­ter­vene in the lamb­ing/ kid­ding process and an en­tire ar­ti­cle could be writ­ten on this sub­ject alone, but es­sen­tially, when a lamb or kid is born, the ‘cor­rect’ pre­sen­ta­tion is the ‘div­ing po­si­tion’ whereby the two front feet come out first, closely fol­lowed by the nose. If the new­born is in any po­si­tion other than this, or they are cor­rectly pre­sented but a lit­tle large, you might need to help, hence the need for the gloves and lu­bri­cant. Some­times an ‘in­cor­rect’ pre­sen­ta­tion might be as sim­ple as one leg bent back, in which case this is a rel­a­tively easy thing to sort out by push­ing the lamb or kid slightly back into the mum, straight­en­ing the said leg and then al­low­ing mum to push it out again! More com­plex mis-pre­sen­ta­tions (breech, back­wards, twins com­ing to­gether) may in­volve a lot more ‘sort­ing out’ in­ter­nally and ob­vi­ously it is vi­tal that you are gloved and lu­bri­cated so that there is no chance of any in­fec­tion be­ing in­tro­duced and so that you are mak­ing the whole thing as com­fort­able for mum as pos­si­ble (which re­al­is­ti­cally, isn’t go­ing to be ‘very’ com­fort­able at all). Lamb­ing ropes are used to wrap around legs or shoul­ders of the lamb or kid when you have got it in the right po­si­tion so that you can then gently help pull as mum has her con­trac­tions and so pre­vent the new­born from get­ting in the wrong po­si­tion again. But, if in any doubt, get the vet or an ex­pe­ri­enced shep­herd/ess to help.


A new­born lamb will re­ceive colostrum via its mum’s milk. Colostrum is the ini­tial thick milky liq­uid that fills the ud­der im­me­di­ately prior to lamb­ing/ kid­ding and, not only is it su­per rich, it also con­tains an­ti­bod­ies that will keep nasty bac­te­ria away from your new­born un­til its own an­ti­bod­ies kick in and it is old enough to re­ceive its own vac­ci­na­tions. Lambs and kids that don’t get any colostrum are likely to die. Ide­ally they need to take their first drink within half an hour to an hour, in or­der for it to warm up the body and get into the blood­stream. In an ideal world, and for max­i­mum ef­fect, a new­born lamb/kid should have 10% of its body weight in colostrum within its first six hours! Af­ter 48 hours, the stom­ach lin­ing loses its abil­ity to ab­sorb any of the an­ti­bod­ies. If a new­born is strug­gling to suckle, or the ewe has very lit­tle ini­tial milk, you may need to give the lamb or kid colostrum via a sy­ringe/bot­tle or even a stom­ach tube – us­ing mum’s colostrum is the ideal first choice or pow­dered colostrum can be mixed up ac­cord­ingly. If you have any par­tic­u­larly milky ewes or nan­nies, you can even take some from them and then keep it frozen for later use. Feed­ing tubes are used on lambs or kids that are un­able to suckle or swal­low for what­ever rea­son and are a way of get­ting milk/colostrum straight into the stom­ach. You MUST be shown how to in­sert a stom­ach tube by a vet or some­one more ex­pe­ri­enced. If you do it wrong, you can kill the an­i­mal.


Io­dine or sim­i­lar: used to spray onto the navel of the new­born lamb or kid to help dry up the re­mains of the um­bil­i­cal cord and to pro­tect the naval from any nasty bac­te­ria get­ting into the body;

An­tibi­otics, sy­ringes and nee­dles: NOT to be used un­less ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary and then only if part of your health plan as agreed with your vet. Some­times the stress of giv­ing birth can leave a ewe or nanny with a low­ered im­mune sys­tem and then an in­fec­tion can take hold. It is use­ful to have a broad spec­trum an­tibi­otic avail­able just in case.

Twin lamb drink (or sim­i­lar) and a drench gun: if, in the weeks/days lead­ing up to the birth, you sus­pect twin lamb dis­ease (see Vet’s View on page 19), an ap­pro­pri­ate twin lamb drink can lit­er­ally be a life­saver; th­ese are read­ily avail­able on­line and from feed stores;

Heat lamps to help keep new­borns warm as re­quired;

Dag­ging and foot trim­ming shears: hope­fully you will have given your ewes their pre-lamb­ing MoT some weeks be­fore, but hav­ing th­ese in your box means you should be able to re- dag or trim feet if needed. You don’t want the ewe/nanny to be un­com­fort­able on her feet nor any ewe to be mucky round her back end;

An­ti­sep­tic spray: just in case you need to cover any mi­nor wound or in­jury – you don’t want there to be any risk of nasty bac­te­ria be­ing around whilst you have vul­ner­a­ble new­borns.


Torches, emer­gency ra­tions (for you), note­book and pen (for that all im­por­tant record keep­ing. e.g. when births hap­pened, any dif­fi­cul­ties, how many born etc);

Colour sprays. If you have a lot of sheep, you might want to con­sider spray­ing the lambs with their mother’s tag num­ber so that you don’t lose track of who be­longs to whom.


Get your lamb­ing/kid­ding box to­gether in good time, in­clud­ing check­ing any use-by dates on items not used since last year!

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