For livestock producers with sheep, lambing season can be a busy time. Daniel Mallory, a University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist based in Ralls County, says taking steps to get ready for lambing season can make a positive difference.
“Preparation is a good idea,” he says.
Mallory says a good first step is making sure ewes have the shots and treatments they need.
“As we’re getting closer to that time, make sure those ewes are up to date on their vaccinations,” he says.
Some of these include CDT shots, tetanus antitoxin shots and de-worming. Mallory advises getting these treatments done around four to six weeks ahead of lambing.
Another factor is making sure ewes’ diets are providing what they need ahead of giving birth.
“Nutrition is important for these ewes, making sure that we provide enough energy and high-energy feeds,” he says.
Producers can supplement diets as needed, and Mallory says it can be a good idea to test forages to know the quality, which can vary widely in hay. He says for a lot of producers, a general diet starting point is 3 or 4 pounds of good-quality hay and 1 pound of concentrate feed that is high in nutrients.
“If we can provide a good high-quality alfalfa, that’s going to provide more energy,” he says.
Another thing producers can do to prepare for lambing is “crutching” ewes, which means shearing the back end of the sheep, around the tail and between the legs. Mallory says this serves a few purposes. It makes the ewes feel cooler, so they are more likely to seek shelter and give birth in a more protected area. Also, it provides easier access for lambs to the ewe’s udder for nursing.
Producers can also make sure their facilities are ready to go for lambing season.
“They can be prepping the lambing area, making sure any dirty bedding is cleaned away,” Mallory says.
As part of that preparation, have supplies on-hand and easily accessible in case ewes need assistance. Supplies include gloves or sleeves, OB lube, colostrum and bottles, taggers and scales if producers want to know birth weights.
Keeping an eye on ewes — and the clock — can help producers know when they might need help.
“If you notice a ewe that’s starting to lamb, and within that hour to two hour timetable she’s not making progress, then we might need to step in and help out,” he says.
Mallory says some prep time now can pay off down the road.
“The more stuff we can get ready now, the better off we’ll be,” he says.