Care of Small stock at lambing

In our Setswana culture it’s known that the pregnant animals are left to give birth on their own and hence end up hiding the offspring for safety reasons, this should not be the case. This is because it is the responsibility of the herd boy or caretaker to make sure that the birth process occurs smoothly and safely. Parturition (process of giving birth) in healthy ewes/does is generally normal. Maiden ewes/does in poor condition or small-framed females mated to big males can have difficulty in parturition and may have to be assisted.

What to do during difficulty in parturition

Assistance may be required during instances of abnormal presentations. You should first see the front legs and nose or head of the lamb if it is a normal birth. In this case, delivery can be expected within fifteen minutes. If the ewe/doe is still laboring after 30 minutes, you should seek professional assistance. If that is not available, proceed as follows:

  • Hygiene, lubrication and care are most important when assisting ewes/does during parturition. Prepare a bucket of clean, warm water with soap and get some disinfectant, a good lubricant such as Vaseline and towels.
  • Wash your hands and arms and wash the vulva and surrounding area of the ewe /doe.Wear latex gloves if available. There are some diseases that can pass to humans from assisting in birth.
  • Apply a good lubricant and insert your hand into the reproductive tract to determine the position of the lamb/kid and take appropriate action. If it is a normal birth, both front legs (hooves pointed up) and the head will be present. If you feel the legs but no head, the lamb needs to be pushed in slightly, and the head found before the lamb/kid can be delivered.
  • If the head is coming but one or both of the front legs are missing, the lamb/kid will need to be pushed in slightly and the missing limbs retrieved, taking special care to cover the hooves to prevent tearing of the uterine wall. Once in normal birth position, the rest of the process should proceed smoothly.
  • If you find hind legs and a tail, this is considered a normal posterior position, although more stressful for the ewe/doe than the normal anterior position. There is a possibility that the lamb/kid will take in birth fluids.
  • You may also come along a breech delivery (tail but no legs). The lamb must be slightly pushed in and each rear leg needs to be retrieved one at a time with a lubricated hand.
  • As soon as the lamb/kid is born, remove all placental membranes and mucous from the nose so that the young can breathe. It can also be swung from its hind legs to clear out more mucous from the lungs and air passages.