Lamb and Kid care after parturition

The first thing that a farmer should do after lambing is to make sure that the ewe/does is mothering well. The mothers are supposed to lick the young one(s) and feed them the first milk (colostrum). Monitor and observe both the mother for behavior to ensure mothering is going very well. The caretaker can milk the teats to make sure there is milk coming out if the new born cannot suckle well.

Check the mother’s breast for any symptoms of swelling, redness and breast pain. These are symptoms of mastitis which are common in the first 3 months after giving birth. There are a few activities which has to be done after parturition or giving birth, they are discussed in the article.

Losses of newborn kids/lambs and ewes/does

On some circumstances the mother or the newborn can die after birth or be born dead also the mother can die during parturition or after. Death may result due to:

  • Poor management, failure to confine the ewes at lambing, often results in the weaker one of a pair of twins never getting properly started.
  • Lambs/kids often fail to find the teat and die of starvation. Occasionally in sheep, lambs appear to be nursing but are sucking on wool balls. This problem can be reduced if the ewes are shorn or crutched before lambing.
  • In some instances the lambs/kids do not have the strength to remove the plug from the end of the teat. It is a good practice to milk out a squirt from each teat when the ewe/doe has lambed/kidded – this practice will not only remove the plug but will provide a check on the condition of the udder and also assure the fact that the ewe has milk.

Lamb adoption

When the mother died during parturition/giving birth or if the mother is not giving out sufficient milk the lamb becomes an orphan and adoption is one way which the lamb can be given colostrum. It is often necessary to either raise the lamb/kid as an orphan or to transfer it to a ewe/doe which has lost her lamb/kid or to one with a single lamb/kid which has an adequate supply of milk.

Some ewes/does will readily take a lamb if they are kept in a small kraal and held a few times while the lamb/kid nurses. More often than not it takes a bit of effort and patience to transfer lambs. One method used is to squirt the ewe’s milk over the lamb’s head and back as well as on the ewe’s nose. The ewes may then claim the lamb since the scent of the lamb is her scent

Record keeping

Good record keeping is critical to efficient and good management. The following are what should be recorded.

  • Note if the ewe had birthing difficulty, and if she was helped and how
  • Note the ewes maternal behavior
  • Note the number of lambs born and number alive
  • Note the color and weight of the lambs
  • Note any apparent abnormalities

Disinfect the navel

The navel of the new born lamb needs to be disinfected as soon after birth as possible. The untreated navel is an excellent route for infectious agents to enter the lamb causing internal abscessation or joint ill. An iodine solution is the most common disinfectant used. It is either sprayed onto the navel or the navel is dipped in a small container of the solution. If dipping the navels, replace the disinfectant solution in the container after every tenth lamb.

Tail docking

The tails need to be docked before the lamb is seven days old. The tail can be removed with:

  • electric or gas heated docker
  • rubber ring
  • crush and cut device
  • rubber ring plus crushing device.

The docked tail should cover the anus of the ram/buck or the vulva of the ewe/doe. A good guide is to remove it at the joint in the tail bones just beyond the web on the underside of the tail.