Preparing your small ruminant for kidding or lambing

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

Kidding and lambing season is here again and owners should take time to make sure their herd or flock is prepared so that they can expect the best possible outcome.  With proper care and planning, problems can be kept to a minimum as animals give birth.

First, four to six weeks before the animals are due to deliver they should be boostered with a CDT vaccine and BoSe if not providing selenium through feed or mineral mix.  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.

Next, make sure you have the necessary supplies on hand.  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 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/won’t nurse.

As the due date approaches, animals should be placed in well-bedded pens in a dry, draft-free area if kidding/lambing during cold weather.  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 also offers a daylong program on the birth management of small ruminants.

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