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Preparing For Lambing

When it's lambing season, sheep producers spend most of their time in the barn, checking the flock morning, noon and night to look for new lambs, or signs of lambing.

Extension Educator Melanie Barkley at Penn State University says the ewe should be healthy and in good condition – not too thin, not too fat. That means proper nutrition management throughout the pregnancy.

"Typically I recommend that folks start with an average quality hay, and they can feed that clear up until the last third of the pregnancy.  At that last third the nutritional requirements of the ewe tend to increase a lot," says Barkley. "Either improve the quality of the hay, or in addition add a higher-energy type of feed. That's normally some sort of grain, corn works very well."

It's important to prevent overcrowding with other sheep. Make sure there's plenty of ventilation, but the area should be free of drafts.

There's no need to boil water and wash the sheets, but Barkley says there are a few supplies you'll want to have on hand– just in case there are problems.

"In addition to have the basics of, say, iodine, the CD&T – which is a vaccination for overeating and tetanus, you'll want to have whatever method they use for castrating. You'll want to make sure you have the bands prepared for that," she says. "Nutrient drench in case they've got weak lambs, a weak lamb feeding tube in case a lamb's not able to nurse right away.  Bottles, nipples, milk replacer, those would all be kinds of things that you would want to have on hand."

The ewe will let you know she's about ready to give birth. Her breathing rate will increase, she'll be restless, paw at the ground, and separate herself from the other sheep. Check on her often to make sure everything's alright.