Lambing the Easy
Way: What you need and
what you NEED to know
By Robert Mock
Babydoll lambs are small: 3.5 to 6 pounds is average. They need to be lambed in a protected area that is dry and out of the wind. Portable pens called "jugs" are used. They are about 4' by 6', and solid sides are best. An electrical outlet should be close enough to hang a heat lamp over the jug if needed. Heat lamps must be hung securely so there is no danger of them falling and causing a fire. Use only the 250 watt, red bulb. The clear bulbs will blind the babies. Jugs should be bedded in clean dry straw, have a hay manger, and a water bucket.
The heat lamp is hung about 40" over one half the jug. This measurement is from floor to bulb and will provide about a 75 to 80 degree heat. Hanging it half over the jug area allows the ewe and lambs to move in or out of the heat. The heat lamp is needed only the first three or four days provided your barn is about 60 degrees.
If you do not want to be up all night, this is a way to control lambing time. Feed a bit of grain to the ewes in the morning. I do it at 10:00 a.m. They have quality grass hay available all of the time. At 10:00 p.m. I give a small feeding of alfalfa, and rarely is a lamb born after midnight or before seven in the morning.
Ewes should be trimmed before lambing. This is especially important in the bag area and the vaginal area for easy cleaning and so the lambs do not nurse on wool tags. You will know your ewe is ready to lamb within a few hours if she has separated herself out from the others and moves around sniffing and talking to the ground. Examine her bag. It should be full and the teats straight out to the side. At this time strip each teat to get the wax plug out and put her in a jug.
If possible, be there when the lambs are born. If a ewe has twins or triplets, she may not be finished cleaning the first lamb when the next one is born and will neglect cleaning the lamb. If the membrane covering the face has not been rubbed off in the birth channel, the lamb will suffocate. Have plenty of warm dry towels on hand and immediately take the lamb, clean its face and nostrils, then tie off and cut the umbilical cord.
See that the lambs nostrils are clear and that it is breathing. There is a baby pig resuscitator which fits over the face, and you can draw any mucous out of the mouth and throat. You can use your finger to clean out the mouth. Massage the lamb vigorously to stimulate breathing. Use artificial resuscitation by breathing in and out of the lamb's mouth. Big breath in and big breath out. All of this only takes minutes. When the lamb is breathing and rather dry, put it in the heating box. Do not put lambs from different ewes in the same box at the same time. The mother identifies her lamb by scent and will or may reject it. Now you are on your way to the next lamb.
FEEDING: A lamb must eat within two hours of lambing. You will need to have on hand: a bottle and nipple or nipples, Land O Lakes Lamb Milk Replacer, a digital thermometer, and a plastic gallon bucket with a lid.
Any baby of many species can be successfully raised on the Land O Lakes. Never feed a cold lamb until it is warm. Cold babies cannot digest their formula. Temp them if cold. The temperature rectally should be 101 plus. Do not worry about colostrum; it is not necessary. Land O Lakes is mixed two parts water to one part milk replacer. It must be temped and fed at 103 to 104 degrees. If heated in the microwave, be sure you stir it before feeding. If you are taking out multiple bottles, heat the formula and fill all the bottles you need and put them in the plastic bucket with water in it temped to 104 degrees to keep them all warm till fed. At the second bottling we add 1/2 teaspoon of Probios powder for each bottle. This inoculates the gut tract with the necessary flora and provides the proper pH to curd the milk. Without curding into a soft sweet curd, it will not digest properly.
Have a heat box or more if needed ready and plugged in. We use a large plastic storage container with a lid. They are about 30" long by 20" wide. We drill two or three air holes along the ends only near the top of the box. Put a long heat pad in it with a hole cut in one corner to run the cord out. You don't want the lamb to get tangled in the cord. Put a clean towel over the heat pad and set it on high. Use a second box to keep your towels warm in.
CARE OF THE EWE: After lambing, clean the ewe with mild soap and water and be sure the teats and bag are rinsed. Fill her water bucket with warm water and put molasses in the water so it is the color of tea. Do this for three days following the lambing. When the ewe has finished lambing, put the dry warm lambs back with her. She should accept them readily. She will stimulate them by pushing them around with her nose but not keep them from nursing. If she does not want to accept a lamb, try putting a scent on them so they all smell alike. Also, put some on her face on each side of the nose. I use a mild cologne or after shave. If she does not accept the lamb or lambs to nurse, keep bottling them every four hours, and hopefully she will allow them to feed within a few hours. A lamb will normally take from 4 to 6 oz. at first feeding and then up to 8 oz. later. The lambs should pass the meconium plug before or shortly after the first feeding. If not, give them a fleet enema. As long as the ewe does not try to hurt the lambs, I leave them with her.
Always have on hand a prolapse spoon. They are rarely needed. Uterine prolapse can occur before or after lambing, usually in ewes whose tails have been docked too short. They are easy to put on and directions come with them.
If a lamb must be pulled or is coming backwards (hind feet first), put KY jelly on your hand. Fingernails should be cut short. You can barely push the lamb back in and turn it. Grasp both hind feet between the fingers on one hand. Pull gently downwards and out if you can. Put KY jelly in the vagina to help. Do not pull upwards or sideways. The lamb must come downwards over the pelvic arch. Doing this is easiest when the ewe is standing. If you cannot get the lamb out within 15 or 20 minutes, call your vet or an experienced sheep breeder for assistance. Often, breached lambs will be born dead as the placenta has been disengaged for too long, and they suffocate. But many lambs are saved with quick action. The lambs should be coming belly down. You can tell by the position of the hoofs. If it is upside down on its back, then push it back in and see if you can turn it over.