Farmers may worry a lot when it comes to lambing, especially if it’s a ewe’s first birth. Some say it’s best to intervene as little as possible; but it’s still important to know exactly what to do during the lambing process.
The essentials to have to hand are as follows:
– dry towels
– surgical scissors
– a clean, dry pen
– a bottle, teat and emergency colostrum supply
– a glucose treatment and a tube feeder for administration
– a hair dryer and/or a heat lamp and/or an old electric blanket
– shoulder-length gloves and lubricant
First sign of lambing
Note that once a sheep’s water bursts, don’t try and move her. The smell is often used as a way of marking that spot so she will feel comfortable enough to give birth right there. Moving her will stress her out and may cause her to wander off in search of that spot, which could be dangerous.
The first phase of lambing, whereby the cervix dilates, can last from 12-24 hours. A discharge will appear at the end of this phase, and contractions will become more frequent and intense.
The Main Event
When the water bag appears and bursts, you should feel the front feet and nose of the lamb begin to edge out of the ewe. The lamb should be born soon after this.
If a ewe has been straining for over an hour, you should enter the ewe. Use sterile hands with lube-covered gloves, and make sure the ewe’s rear is completely clean. Feeling for a lamb for longer than five minutes without knowing what’s happening means you should call a vet for help.
If you can feel the lamb and it doesn’t seem to be showing ‘normal presentation’ then there may be a problem.
Normal is considered to be the two front legs at the cervix with the head resting between, hind legs at the cervix, and an elbow lock position. The last of those is the only one that needs some slight assistance. Push the lamb back slightly to allow the ewe to push her lamb out freely.
More problematic presentations include one of more legs stuck back. Cup the hooves and bring them forward to allow for a normal birth. Lambing ropes will help with this if you attach them to either one or both stuck limbs.
If the head is stuck back while legs are normal, you may need to push the lamb back and then move the head to normal position.
A breech birth is when the lamb is back-to-front, with its back legs stuck under its body. Try your best to bring the rear legs straight out to the cervix without breaking the umbilical cord.
Take care during multiple births; make sure you know what head belongs to what body and which limbs belong to which lamb before you start pulling.
If you have dead or seriously deformed lambs, it’s best to call a vet as it can be difficult to fully remove the lambs.
The placenta (or afterbirth) will exit the ewe about an hour after the last lamb. Any longer than 24 hours means a vet should be called. Make sure that the placenta is either eaten by the ewe or discarded properly. This is an extremely important part of keeping everything hygienic!