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What You Need to Know for a Successful Lambing Season

Words by Tiffany Menzies


Farmlands in-house vet Tiffany Menzies shares some practical tips on how to prepare for lambing season, including nutrition and health management. 


Proper nutrition for ewes is critical during the last four to six weeks of gestation to ensure that the developing foetuses receive the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and development, while also supporting the ewe’s nutritional needs and health. This means feed planning well ahead is essential to aid the health and survival of your flock, and to provide them with the dietary protein, energy and essential minerals they need for optimal performance, says Tiffany. Ultimately, among other factors, what is fed prior to lambing depends on pregnancy rates – singles verses multiples (twins or triplets) – and due lambing date.


This is when scanning can come in handy, so you can tell how many lambs each ewe is carrying and then adjust feeding levels accordingly to help avert feed-related issues arising. It is equally important to strike the balance between feeding enough, but not too much or too little. When the ewe is over-fed, the unborn lamb can grow too big, which can lead to birthing difficulties, the loss of the lamb or even the ewe. Equally, in the latter stages of pregnancy if ewes are underfed in terms of both quantity and quality of feed, problems can arise for both the ewe and her lamb.



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It is also advised that you keep an eye on the body condition score of the sheep, Tiffany says. “You want to keep them at a body condition score above three. Pre-lamb, you might consider drafting out the thinner ones to a separate mob if you have the space, so you can better manage their feeding levels.”


Although ruminants need some long fibre for maintaining efficient rumen fermentation, in the late stages of pregnancy higher fibre and less nutritious feeds such as hay, baleage or mature winter-saved grazing may be too bulky to meet the needs of some classes of ewes, who will benefit from more concentrated supplements. Free-access salt blocks and molasses blocks are a good way to maintain essential trace mineral intakes. Farmlands has compound feed options available, including a specially formulated triplet nut for triplet bearing ewes which can be fed three weeks prior to lambing, and afterwards to assist good milk production.


Vaccinations are another thing to keep in mind. They can help protect the ewes against blood poisoning that can occur around birthing. “By giving [vaccinations] at the recommended time pre-lambing, the colostrum will have higher levels of antibodies to give protection to the lamb in its early life stage before it gets vaccinated. So, you're protecting the ewe through her lambing risk period, and you're protecting that lamb through the colostrum,” Tiffany says.


Tiffany also suggests stocking up on supplies that might be needed for an assisted birthing process. This should include some lubrication, some antiseptic, a lamb’s teat and feeding bottle, freeze dried colostrum, ear tags and aerosol marker. You should also provide good shelter or even some lamb coats to protect the newborns from extreme weather.