The best bit of lambing is when a brand new lamb is born and you see the amazing birth. Just like one born every minute, there literally can be lambs being born every minute- day and night!
When you seen the signs of lambing the ewe will normally do everything she needs to in order to give birth on her own. If you leave her to it she will push out the lamb or lambs on her own.
When a lamb is born it should always come out with the two feet first followed by the head- for it to be a natural birth this must take place. Sometimes the lamb could be coming out head first, one foot forward and one foot back or even backwards. This can cause complications that mean the ewe wont be able to give birth on her own- this is why we get our ewes into the shed. By having them inside it allows us to monitor the births and give help where needed.
When the lamb is inside the ewe it is encased in a water bag and connected via an umbilical cord just like a human. The moment the lamb is born this water bag and the umbilical cord break. The mother will lick the baby lamb until its clean and dry as the natural maternal instinct sets in.
As a Shepherd we intervene in the lambing process for several reasons:
1- as above to help where the lamb may be in the wrong position for natural birth
2- sometimes when the lamb is born the water bag doesn’t burst, this can effectively drown the lamb as it can’t gasp for air. We can intervene to ensure this doesn’t happen
3- sometimes the water bag will break but the lamb may have the water within its system and can again struggle for breath. A quick tickle up the nose with a piece of straw makes them sneeze and clears the airways
4- Mismothering, if one ewe lambs another ewe that may be close to lambing may mistake the lamb as her own. She believes she has given birth and that this lamb must be hers, in the confusion this can cause the actual mother to abandon the lamb. When the ewe then has its own lamb you will be left with a lamb that’s actual mother will now not accept it. It is important to walk the shed regularly to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Once the ewe has had all of their lambs, the ewe and lamb/lambs are moved into an individual pen. As soon as the lambs are put in the pens there are two steps that must be taken:
1- the lamb must be given some spectrum- this is an antibacterial medicine that prevents them from picking up an infection called watery mouth- this can be picked up from the moms udder and dirt around them
2- iodine is sprayed onto their naval, again this is to stop any infection
The pens give the mother and new lambs some time to get use to each other and the chance to start forming a bond.