A little preparation can go a long way in the prevention of problems during lambing season. In order for a ewe to do her job of delivering strong healthy lambs and have sufficient milk to raise those lambs, it is important to provide proper gestation management. Maintaining ewes on a quality vitamin and mineral supplement program prior to lambing through breeding will help ensure she has the proper nutrition to perform.
“During the last trimester, you may consider supplementing with grain to provide the additional energy needed for growing lambs. At lambing, the body score should be between 3 and 3.5. Care must be taken not to feed too much grain early in gestation, and it’s best to make any increases gradual,” said Ben Neale, BioZyme Area Sales Manager and livestock nutrition expert. “A leveling out or drop in late pregnancy grain intake can result in pregnancy toxemia and death of any lambs in utero. Conversely, too little grain will produce an undersized, weak lamb with a poor chance of survival.”
Neale, who has more than 15 years of experience in the livestock nutrition industry, also runs a small flock of Katahdin ewes in Tennessee with his wife Lauren. They have seen first-hand the difference nutrition plays in their own herd.
Neale recommends an increase in energy prior to lambing for the ewe to support udder development and help develop fat reserves, which will be needed during lactation. The amount of supplementary feed recommended depends on the size and body condition of the ewes and the quality of forage being fed. BioZyme offers complimentary, custom forage testing and nutritional analysis to producers through its nationwide dealer network. For more information about the program, visit http://www.vitaferm.com/testyourhay/.
Changes in diet will also have to be made post lambing, suggests Neale.
“Ewes should be able to maintain a healthy body condition of 2.5 on a diet of good quality hay or available grass. Feeding ewes a mineral supplement, such as VitaFerm® with the Amaferm® advantage, will enable them to more efficiently digest available feedstuffs and maximize the energy value of their feed,” said Neale.
Ensuring that your herd health protocols are up to par is also an important part of the equation. A veterinarian will likely suggest that one month out from the first ewe’s due date, all ewes should receive their annual clostridial booster (ewe lambs should have had their primary vaccinations prior to breeding). Also, consult with your veterinarian if an injection of Vitamin E and/or selenium is needed in your area.
Having lambing facilities in good working condition will also save a lot of headaches. The perfect post- lambing environment would be:
- Warm, clean and dry
- 40-60 degrees
- Individual pens that are 5′ x 5′ or 6′ x 4′
- Each pen should contain clean, dry bedding and a bucket of fresh, clean water
It is important for each ewe to have a lambing pen where the bonding between ewe and lamb and nursing can be monitored. The pen should also allow the lamb to easily be caught for any procedures (tail docking etc.). Depending on the system used, the ewe can be put into this pen when lambing is observed to be imminent or after the lamb has been dropped. Once the lamb is vigorous and all treatments completed, the lamb and ewe can be let out into a larger pen with other ewe/lamb sets. Soiled bedding should be removed and fresh bedding put down after each ewe. On average, expect each ewe to spend three days in this pen.
“Lambing is stressful on both the ewe and newborn lambs. As with humans, stress has a major effect on the digestive system, and the digestive system is central to good health. It is a good idea to keep one of BioZyme’s Vita Charge® products on hand to help stimulate the lamb’s appetite and water intake,” said Neale.