Four steps to prepare for small ruminant kidding and lambing

With kidding and lambing season right around the corner, owners should prepare their animals to get the best outcome.

goat kid sitting in straw
A newborn goat kid is doing well after an uneventful birthing process. Photo by Michael Metzger, MSU Extension.

Kidding and lambing season is here again and there are steps that owners should take to make sure their herd or flock is prepared. By taking the time to prepare, owners will mitigate issues that could arise, and they will be set-up for the best possible outcome.  With proper care and planning problems can be kept to a minimum as animals give birth.

Step one: Implement a vaccination program for your herd or flock

Four to six weeks before the animals are due to deliver, they should receive a booster with Clostridium perfringens type C and D and tetanus (CDT) vaccine and selenium and vitamin E (BoSe) if not providing selenium through feed or mineral mix.

Step two: Monitor your feeding program to meet nutritional needs of the gestating animals

Does and ewes in the last trimester of pregnancy should have their feed intake monitored. As the fetuses continue to grow in the uterus, their nutritional demands also grow. These nutritional needs are difficult to meet, and it can be further complicated by the reduced size of the rumen due to the increased space occupied by multiple fetuses. It is important to feed a highly digestible forage such as a good quality hay and an energy dense supplement such as corn to meet these demands. Failure to meet the needs of these expectant animals can result in ketosis or other metabolic conditions.

Step three: Source the necessary supplies to have on hand

When preparing for kidding/lambing season it is important to have some basic supplies on hand to assist with the delivery process if needed. Some suggestions include:

  • Disinfectant or anti-bacterial soap for cleaning before and after the exam
  • Towels for drying kid/lambs
  • Iodine for dipping navels
  • Disposable obstetrical (OB) gloves for exams or pulling kids/lambs
  • OB lubricant for exams
  • Clean bucket for warm, soapy water for preparing animal for exam
  • Kid/lamb puller
  • Large syringe and stomach tube for feeding neonates that can’t or won’t nurse

Step four: Prepare area for kidding or lambing

As the due date approaches animals should be placed in well bedded pens in a dry, draft free area if kidding or lambing during cold weather.

Once you have taken the steps to properly prepare for the kidding or lambing season on your farm you will be ready to assist the animals in your flock or herd. One of the most important things to remember as animals go into labor, is to give the process time and not rush things. Most animals will deliver with no problem on their own if left to themselves. The first stages of labor can take anywhere from one to four hours. This stage includes the animal isolating herself, if possible, restlessness and nesting behavior.  It also includes the “water breaking’. The second stage of labor should last less than 45 minutes and include the fetus moving into the pelvic canal and hard labor resulting in delivery of the fetus. It is recommended that if you see no progress for 20 minutes in the second stage of delivery that owners intervene and check for normal delivery position. Assisting an animal during the birthing process requires some expertise. If owners are unsure or inexperienced, they should contact their veterinarian.  Michigan State University Extension is offering a webinar series on the birth management of small ruminants.

Did you find this article useful?