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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Lambing Time Management

Livestock Update, February 1999

Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Sheep, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

Post-Lambing Management:

The ewe and her lambs need to be monitored closely the first few days after birth. Healthy lambs are content, and will stretch when getting up and wag their tails when nursing. A gant and weak appearance may be indicative of starvation. Check the ewe to be sure she has milk. In the case of multiple births, the smallest lamb may not be able to compete for the milk supply. Time spent in the jug will depend largely on the number of jugs available and rate at which ewes are lambing. Strong, healthy singles may be removed from the jugs in 24-36 hr. after birth, and twins 48 hr. Triplets and ewes with weak lambs may need to stay in the jug for 3 days or more. Ewes and lambs should be removed from the jug as quickly as possible, as chances of pneumonia and diarrhea are greater the longer they are kept confined to the jugs. Labor requirements are also much greater when ewes are confined to the jugs.

Upon removal from the jugs, ewes and lambs should be put into a mixing pen with 3-4 other ewes and their lambs. This will help acclimate them, and they should be closely observed to identify abandoned and rejected lambs. After a day or two, the ewes can then be put into larger groups.

Before turning out of jugs, pertinent information on the ewes and lambs should be recorded. Appropriate identification of the lambs (ear tags, paint brands, ear notches, etc.) should also be done at this time. The ability to match a ewe with her lambs can be very beneficial as a management tool. Thin, poor-doing lambs may indicate a health problem in the ewe (mastitis) or inferior milking ability.

Virginia is largely a Selenium deficient state. Deficiency of Selenium and/or Vitamin E causes white muscle disease in lambs. For prevention of white muscle disease, lambs should receive .25 mg Selenium per 10 pounds of body weight in the first few days after birth.

For ewes that have not been dewormed prior to lambing, deworming should be performed upon leaving the jug. Ewes shed an increased number of worm eggs during the last weeks of gestation and continue through just after lambing.

Docking and castration is best when performed at the same time, usually 2-5 days after birth. At a young age, there will be less stress on the lambs. Additionally, these practices are faster and simpler to perform for the producer when the lambs are young.

Vaccination of ewes with Clostridium perfringens type C and D with tetanus prior to lambing will provide protection for lambs for tetanus (via colostrum), provided docking and castration is done a few days after birth. If ewes have not been vaccinated with tetanus prior to lambing, lambs should receive 300 IU of tetanus antitoxin as well as tetanus toxoid. Do not mix the antitoxin and toxoid in the same syringe or give in the same location (use opposite sides of neck).

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