Friday, March 8, 2013

Sheep Lambing Signs

In the hours before the ewe gives birth there are some noticeable signs that she is in labour. The ewe will be uneasy and show signs of sickness. No two ewes show the exact signs but there are many common traits. Its vital that you are aware of the signs so that if there is need for intervention you are on site.
Check your ewes every four hours so that if a ewe is having difficulty she is not left to struggle too long on her own. Some ewes can be quite dramatic in the hours up to the birth and some can be quiet relaxed.
I have seen a ewe that every year would clear the rest of the ewes out of the shed while she was in the process of lambing.

 Signs of Lambing
  • The ewes udder will be bagged out a few days or a week before she is about to give birth. It becomes bigger and harder the closer to birth.
  • The teats will stand out about a day before lambing.
  • The belly sinks also around the day before birth.
  • The vulva will get pinker and more swelled.
  • Hollow area appears in their flanks.
  • When the lambing is close the ewe usually will not come to feed with the other ewes.

  • The signs can be different depending on whether the ewe is lambing indoors or outdoors. If outdoors the ewe will move away from the rest of the flock as she will be looking for a sheltered place to give birth. She will perhaps go near a wall or tree. Out doors its easier to see the ewe separating away from the flock.
  • Sometimes a ewe close to dropping the lamb will be bleating for a lamb our will show interest in other ewes lambs.
  • She will move away from the flock and look rather perplexed.
  • A clear liquid will appear like a string from their vulva.


  • The water bag will then appear. There are two water bags,  a larger one protecting the head and a smaller one lower down the back. The water bag may appear in two different ways once it exits the ewe. It may burst once it is released and hang like a membranous string or hang out not burst but a fluid filled bag. 
  • Lambing from the expulsion of the first water bag may take less than an hour.

  • At this stage the ewe will be anxious and start scraping and stamping on the ground. She will be circling.
  • She will perhaps grit her teeth.
  • She will then lay down and start forcing.
  • The closer to birth the more intense the forcing and straining.
  • The ewe should have dropped the lamb within an our of the water bag appearing and longer and you may need to give her assistance.
  • The sheep can deliver the lamb standing up or laying down.
  • If the lamb is coming out correctly you will see its head and two front legs. When you see the nose and two front legs you can relax knowing all is going well.
  • Even if the lamb is dropped perfectly the lamb may still need your assistance. If the lamb is born with the amniotic sac intact it could drown so you will need to burst it and remove the mucus from the lambs nose to allow it to breath.
  • Some lambs are not quick off the mark and need encouragement taking their first breath. You can do this by tickling its nose with some straw rubbing its back or gently swinging the lamb by its back legs side to side.
  • Watch to see that the ewe bonds with her lambing licking it and encouraging it to suck. The vigours licking is importent stimulation for the lamb and helps trigger hormones in the ewe that help accelerate the production of milk. Once you understand that there is a bond you can dry the lamb off some more and apply the iodine on the naval.
  • If the ewe has  had a difficult birth you should give her an antibiotic injection and watch out for vaginal prolapse in the hours after the birth. Speak with your vet if she suffers a prolapse which can be treated by fitting her with a harness.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lamb Pneumonia

Lamb pneumonia is an infections disease that is caused primarily by the bacteria pasteurella hemolytica.
Detecting the signs of pneumonia on time is critical for the chance of survival of a lamb with pneumonia.
The most common cause of death in young lambs is lamb pneumonia.
You will usually notice the symptom's of pneumonia during the advanced stages of the disease.
Your lamb is more at risk of getting pneumonia if he/she is housed in a damp drafty enclosure. Contaminated milk and feed  also puts the lamb at risk. Inadequate colostrum intake at birth and exposure to extreme cold and rain is a precursor for this disease.
 Pasteurella hemolytica is a bacteria that is found in the respiratory and digestive tract in alot of lambs. Most newborn lambs are exposed to this bacteria but do not develop the disease that can be caused by pasteurell hemolytica as they have a natural resistance. Their resistance to this bacteria is usually only compromised if they have not had adequate colostrum and are living in an unhealthy environment.
Another organism called mycoplasma may also cause the disease.
Lambs that recover are prone to relapse and can develop a hard cough during the feeding period that can cause a rectal prolapse in the lamb.
Lambs who have had a difficult birth are more prone to pneumonia.
An unhealthy living environment for a lamb comprises of dust, damp bedding, high humidity, large amount of ammonia, excessive heat, inadequate ventilation in these conditions the risk of a pneumonia outbreak in the lambs is high.
 Signs and Symptoms
Poor Suckling
A healthy lamb sucks from the ewe at regular intervals. The lamb is vigorous which sucking. There is strong head movement with tail wagging. A sick lamb will have poor suckling. No vigour in his suckling.
Nasal Discharge
Healthy lambs will have a small amount of nasal discharge. When you notice an increased amount of nasal discharge then its time to be alarmed. You should look at your lambs regular to notice changes.
The normal rectal temperature of a lamb is 102 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. A lamb with pneumonia will have a higher temperature.
Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite can lead to starvation and death. The lamb that losses its appetite will loose weight quickly.
A sick lamb will be  on its own not interacting with the other lambs. The lamb will separate perhaps from its mother. It will sleep and will have difficulty standing.
The lamb needs to have its fever treated. Given antibiotics such as penicillin. Keep the lamb hydrated providing electrolytes and lamb milk. You may need to feed the lamb via stomach tube. You should bring the lamb indoors beside a warm fire or provide a pen with a heat lamp.
If there is an outbreak all the remaining  lambs should be treated with an routine antibiotic.
Ensure that the living quarters of the lambs are well ventilated and not overcrowded.
Provide fresh bedding as often as possible paying particular attention to the fresh births.
Do not house the lambs in a heavily drafted area.
The bedding needs to be dry as to prevent lamb chilling.
Colostrum intake must be adequate.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Fostering Lambs

If you have an orphan lamb or a lamb that is not getting enough milk from their mother then you may consider lamb fostering.
Lamb fostering is when you find a surrogate mother in the form of a ewe that is willing or that can be convinced to take on another lamb.
Ewes usually are not willing to take on another ewes lamb but there are some tricks of the trade that can be used.

If a ewes lamb has just died you can rub her birth fluids on your orphan and let the ewe think that your orphan lamb is her lamb. This is known as wet fostering. Keep and eye on them to see that they bond.

Sometimes its best to tie the orphan lambs two back legs lightly with a string so his movements seem more like a newborn lamb. Untie after an hour. This is often the most successful. Leave together in small pen.

You could also try putting the dead lambs fleece on the orphan lamb to fool the sheep into thinking your orphan lamb is hers. Leave the fleece on  the lamb for two to three hours.

You could trick a ewe into thinking that she had twins by rubbing the fluids on her newborn lamb onto your orphan lamb and her after birth fluids. Pay particular attention to the lambs head, ears, and rear. This is also wet fostering. Lightly tie the lambs back legs with some string. Untie the legs after an hour. Leave them all together in a small pen.

The ewe is able to identify her lamb from the flock by smelling its head and rear end. To cause confusion to the ewe which in time will get her to take on the orphan as her own rub strong smelling solutions on the orphans tail and head and on the ewes original lambs tail and head.
You can use antiseptic,vicks vapa rub or olive oil. You can rub these on the muzzle of the ewe also.

You could hold the ewe and let the lamb suck of her. Keep the lamb in a pen next to the ewe. For each feed for a few days you should hold the ewe and let the lamb suck. It takes four hours for the milk to pass through the digestive system of the lamb. Eventually the ewe will accept the lamb as her own. Be careful that the ewe does not kick or head but the lamb.The ewes milk will make a particular smell on the lamb and its poop which will prompt her her acceptance.

Some ewes are more open to fostering than others. Also some lamb are easier to foster. An older ewe is sometimes more reluctant than a younger ewe to foster.

There are commercial products available to aid in the lamb fostering process such as Macwells Fostering Oil. The oil is highly concentrated. You put a few drops on the ewes nose and a few drops on the lambs head and tail.

You could use a lamb adopter. The ewe should be restrained by the adopter for each feeding of the lamb. After 48 hours release the ewe from the adopter.

Don't leave a ewe long without a lamb.

Sheep are not stupid so when you are wanting to do an adoption try to match the ewe with a orphan lamb that is similar to her in character and appearance. You do not want to arose her suspicion. A quiet ewe should be matched with a placid lamb of similar appearance. A ewe that likes to move alot and has lots of energy would prefer a more hyper lamb.

A dog is sometimes a great help in speeding up the adoption. Have the dog sit near the adoption pen. The ewes natural protective instinct will be triggered with the sight of the dog. She will form a mothering bond with the orphan.

There is also another commercial product called the foster coat. The smell from the ewes original lamb is transferred onto the foster coat and then onto the orphan.

Lamb Scour

Scours cause diarrhea and usually occur in the first month of the lambs life.
Adequate intake of colostrum is the best protection against lamb scours. Good sanitation is also very important. Bad farm management leads to a higher risk of lamb scour. Bacterial scours are treated with antibiotics and fluids.
Scours can lead to dehydration and pneumonia and if untreated death.
Causes of the scour can be viral,parasitic,nutritional or environmental. Scours can be infectious.
Too much milk replacer or pelleted feed can cause scours in lambs.
Scouring lambs may appear gaunt,depressed with wet rear legs. They will loose condition very quickly.

Its best to remove the infected animals from the rest of the flock.

Contact your vet when you have an outbreak of scours. They can do fecal analysis to pinpoint the cause. An outbreak can lead to serious loss. Your vet may give fluid via iv drip and prescribe antibiotics.

If your lamb has scours try to figure out why so you can try to halt the spread of it to the other lambs.
Regular disinfecting of materials and facilities is vital towards prevention. Stresses such as the cold and wet for newborns is also important.
Ensure that the living environment of the lamb is not the cause. Remove unclean water and infected feces.
Provide the lambs with fresh bedding.
Viral and bacterial causes my be e-coli, salmonella, rota virus, crypotsoridium,  clostridium perfringes c, giardia.

Wear latex gloves when dealing with a lamb with scours as you do not want to get contaminated.

Treatment of Scour

Remove the potential cause of the scour.Perhaps its the lamb milk replacer or the pelleted feed.
You may want to administer halt scour and provide fresh water and hay.
If the lamb is suffering from hypothermia the lamb must be warmed before being feed the electrolyte.
The scouring lamb should be treated with oral antibiotics and electrolytes. Use a broad spectrum antibiotic.
Home made electrolyte can be made from warm water,baking soda, pinch of salt and corn syrup.
You can determine if the lamb is dehydrated by pulling on a pinch of skin.
Lambs with normal hydration will have elastic skin that will quickly return to normal.
Dehydrated lambs loose their skin elasticity and their skin will stay tented for two or more seconds.
You may have to give the electrolyte by stomach tube.
When the lamb is sick feed smaller amounts more often.
You can feed your sick lamb live yogurt.
Keep an account of your lambs rectal temperature until it returns to normal.

When feeding a lamb with scour you should prepare a bottle that contains 50%lamb milk and 50% electrolyte.
Lamb will continue to scour until the scours run their course and pass through the digestive system.
During the passing of the scour the lambs stools will be soft but not liquid.
Keeping the lamb hydrated during a scour outbreak is off great importance.
Fecal analysis can pinpoint the cause of the scour outbreak.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Facts about Lambs and Sheep

Sheep have been kept by Shepard's for over 11,000 years.
900 different breeds of sheep in the world.
Sheep farming is the oldest organized industry.
Some sheep are kept for wool and some for meat.
Female sheep are called ewes and male sheep are called rams.
Neutered male sheep are called wethers.
Most lambs will weigh around the same as a newborn baby when born 9lb.

Lambs will drink their mothers milk until they are 4 months old.
Twins are the most popular. Ewes can also have singles, triplets, quadruplets and even quintuplets.
Lambs can walk minutes after birth.
Lambs are born with 8 milk teeth.
Two teeth will fall out each year until the 8 teeth have been replaced
Some ewes need assistance while giving birth.
Lambs like to waggle their tail when they are happy suckling.

Sheep have a slit on their upper lip which allows selection of preferred leaves off the plants.
There are over one billion sheep in the world.
China has the most sheep in the world.
Sheep have a field vision of around 300 degrees so they can see behind them without turning around their head.
One years fleece is about 8lbs of wool.
Sheep are said to be the original domestic animal.
Lambs have their first shearing of wool at 8 months usually.
They begin to nibble on hay and grass at 2 weeks old.
Sheep consume 4.5lbs of food a day.
75 heart beats per minute.

Puberty starts at around 5 to 8 months.
Gestation is around 145 to 155 days.
The vigorous licking that the ewe does to the lamb is important stimulation for the lamb and helps trigger hormones that trigger the accelerated production of milk in the ewe.
Wild sheep are larger than domesticated sheep.
Lambs symbolise spring and all things pastoral.
Sheep do not have any teeth on their upper front jaw.
The expression ''Lamb of God'' means that Jesus is the son of God.
Lambs often need to be bottle fed by farmers if their mothers do not have a good milk supply.

Sheep are herbivores.
Sheep have four digestive chambers which break down their food.
Dolly was the first cloned sheep.
Sheep love the company of other sheep.
The Egyptians believed sheep were sacred.
Sheep have great memories, they can remember up to 50 individual sheep and humans.
They have poor eyesight but excellent hearing.
Life expectancy is 6 to 11 years.
Sheep milk is more nutritious than cow and goat milk.

Body temperature is 102 degrees and they take 16 breaths per minute.

Sheep show emotions through the position of their ears.
Sheep are extremely intelligent and great at solving problems, they have the same IQ as cattle and are close in intelligence to pigs.
Different noises sheep make display different emotions.
Sheep will eat specific plants when ill to cure themselves.
Sheep are great mothers and form close bonds with their young.
They can recognise their lambs bleat.

A Ram can service 35 ewes per day.
A yearling is between 1 or 2 years old who may or may not have lambed.
One pound of wool can make 10 miles of yarn.
Sheep have 2 teats.
Sheep can be found in desert areas and mountain areas.

Sheep can be milked to make great cheese.
Sheep have 2 digits on each hoof.
Sheep cannot get up if they are lying on their back, if they don't get human help they can die quickly in this position.