Lamb­ing and kid­ding

Our breed­ing se­ries

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month -

The first time you get to see one of your own an­i­mals give birth can be quite an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ence. It can of­ten in­duce tears, usu­ally of re­lief as well as pride. It is both a priv­i­lege and a re­spon­si­bil­ity to bring new life into the world and, for those of you about to ex­pe­ri­ence it for the first time, we can as­sure you it is just as amaz­ing the sec­ond time, and the third time, and the fourth… in fact EV­ERY time!

To en­joy it you must be pre­pared, firstly be­cause things can and will go wrong at some stage, if not this year, then the next; but also be­cause your en­joy­ment will be en­hanced if you know you are as ready as pos­si­ble.

So, as­sum­ing you now have well fed, clean, healthy ewes and/or nan­nies bed­ded down in your barns and sheds, what else should be in place?

Giv­ing birth

A ewe or nanny about to give birth will be rest­less, will pace, she may lie down and get up a lot, she may start ‘talk­ing’ to the new­born (‘get a move on’ prob­a­bly be­ing the most pop­u­lar choice of phrase). Goats in par­tic­u­lar can be very noisy. If you have all your an­i­mals to­gether, she may ‘with­draw’ slightly (and that is when you might want to con­sider put­ting her in a sep­a­rate pen). She will start paw­ing

the ground (nest­ing!). Some­times she will do all th­ese things and then go off and be to­tally nor­mal for a cou­ple of hours whilst you de­bate (an­noy­ingly) whether you can leave her to go and grab a quick loo break.

The ac­tual birthing process can be viewed (very roughly) in half hour slots. A bag will ap­pear, and then, within half an hour, the lamb or kid should have put in an ap­pear­ance. Half an hour af­ter that, any sec­ond lamb/kid should also have been born. If any of th­ese half hours turn into hours, then that is def­i­nitely too long a gap and help and/or a vet may be needed. Some­times the whole process from the bag ap­pear­ing to two young­sters be­ing fu­ri­ously licked by an ex­hausted mum may be less than one half hour in to­tal.

There are a great num­ber of books, videos, DVDs, Face­book groups and more you can watch, read and ask ad­vice on when it comes to lamb­ing and kid­ding and you should cer­tainly try to be as aware as pos­si­ble what to ex­pect. Help­ing out with lamb­ing and kid­ding on some­one else’s farm or hold­ing is a per­fect way to learn. Many vets run cour­ses as do a few fel­low small­hold­ers. At the end of the day though, when it is your own stock, late at night and you can feel the panic start­ing, it re­ally is best to call in an ex­pert if you are at all wor­ried. When you are deal­ing with po­ten­tial lives, be­ing over-cau­tious is al­ways the best pol­icy.

The first 24 hours

So now you have twins or a whop­ping sin­gle or even triplets, and mum is lick­ing them all like mad and they are all wob­bly and shak­ing their heads and get­ting used to this rather dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment. And you are feel­ing great!

There are a few things to check. The head shak­ing is all about the new­born get­ting rid of that birthing fluid, some of which may be in its mouth, up its nose and some­times it can get into the lungs. If there is any sign of the kid or lamb strug­gling to breath, do­ing a LOT of head shak­ing

We can­not rec­om­mend enough go­ing on a course or help­ing out with a friend’s lamb­ing or kid­ding

or sound­ing gur­gly, you want to try to get those air­ways cleared. Your fin­ger will suf­fice to clear any fluid from the mouth.

Cold lips are a sign that the lamb or kid is not do­ing that well; they may just re­quire ad­di­tional heat or this may sig­nify a more se­ri­ous un­der­ly­ing prob­lem such as a heart de­fect. If you can­not get the lamb or kid warned up in a few hours us­ing a heat lamp or sim­i­lar, a call to the vet may be in or­der.

All be­ing well, the lamb or kid will find mum’s teats and take its first drink in that first half hour. Some­times help is needed here, ei­ther in guid­ing the lamb or kid to the ud­der or get­ting the ewe or nanny to stand still. It’s a bal­ance be­tween not want­ing to in­ter­fere too much at a time when mum and off­spring are bonding, but mak­ing sure that vi­tal colostrum gets con­sumed as soon as pos­si­ble. In or­der to pre­vent in­fec­tion, teats have ‘plugs’ which the first kid or lamb suck­ing should dis­lodge. Some­times, how­ever, hu­man help might be needed to dis­lodge th­ese plugs and get the milk flow­ing.

You also want to make sure the new­born has no de­for­mi­ties, that the teats are in place and nor­mal look­ing, that legs are prop­erly formed, that eyes and ears are clean and alert. We once had a lamb with­out an anus open­ing – it was most bizarre - but the vet man­aged to cre­ate an open­ing and, as all was present and cor­rect in­ter­nally, nor­mal poo-ing was then able to take place!

Once you are happy that all seems well and that first cru­cial drink has been taken, you should be able to leave mum and off­spring to con­tinue bonding. At your next check, which may well be a few hours later, check the belly of the lamb or kid and, if it feels warm and full, you know that things are as they should be. The other pos­i­tive sign to look out for is the lamb or kid ‘belly stretch’: this is when they get up hav­ing been rest­ing or asleep and do a full body stretch and of­ten a lit­tle yawn too. This is the most per­fect sign that they are nice and warm and have a stom­ach full of milk.

This ar­ti­cle has only touched the sur­face of the topic and we can­not rec­om­mend enough go­ing on a course or help­ing out with a friend’s lamb­ing or kid­ding. The more you see/learn be­fore­hand the bet­ter and the more likely you are to en­joy the whole ex­pe­ri­ence.

NEXT TIME: When things go wrong and how to deal with them: e.g. fos­ter­ing a lamb or kid, hav­ing to bot­tle feed, cae­sare­ans, mum and off­spring not bonding..

The ‘about-to-be-born’ hav­ing a bit of a ‘talk­ing to’

A Boer nanny in labour with a wa­ter bag clearly show­ing, two front feet and a nose should fol­low…

That ini­tial bonding is a joy to wit­ness

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