Livestock

Lambing box

Two weeks prior to the start of lambing is also the time to get the lambing box together. Don’t leave it to the last minute, because ewes (and lambs) can surprise you!

This is what I have in my lambing box. It’s quite basic because if anything seems to be really amiss, I call the vet. Every sheep keeper will have variations, but this is a decent starter.

I also make sure my foot shears and dagging shears are in good working order and that I have foot spray, flukicide, wormer and Spot-on to hand, as we dose, spot on, dag and foot-trim the ewes prior to them being turned out with their lambs. I keep this stuff plus the rubber rings and applicator in a hook-over bucket, so that I can hang it on the pen gates while I work.

Lambing box contents

Calcium borogluconate

Calcium borogluconate with added glucose, 60ml syringe and 16 gauge needles (Subcutaneous) for treating hypocalcaemia

Twin lamb drench

Twin lamb drench for treating Twin Lamb Disease.

Pen and Strep

Pen and Strep, 10ml syringe and 18 gauge needles (Intramuscular); an antibiotic containing penicillin and streptomycin, which can be given to ewes that have had interventions at lambing.

Prolapse harness (spoon type)

I’ve got one but not had to use it yet.

Lamb stimulant

E.g. Kickstart, Lamb Boost or Thermovite; we have Kickstart and it’s miracle stuff. :-) Sometimes, at 2am, I’m tempted to have a glug myself (joke).

Iodine

Iodine 10% and dipping cup; for navel dipping. Navel dipping is REALLY important. The navel is a high-risk route of infection in newborn lambs and can lead to internal abscesses and joint ill. The navel should be dipped as soon after birth as possible.

I use an old multivitamin pill container. It’s plastic, so not easily breakable and it has a wide neck, which makes getting the umbilical cord into the iodine easier. I prefer this to a spray as I think dipping ensures better coverage of the cord with iodine.

Stomach tube

Stomach tube / 50ml syringes; for getting colostrum / milk into weak lambs. It’s worth going on a lambing course to find out how to use one of these. It is an invaluable bit of kit but needs to be used properly to avoid drowning the lamb by putting the tube into the lungs rather than the stomach!

Bottles and teats

For feeding orphan lambs or for topping up lambs whose mothers don’t have much milk.

Steriliser

Sterilising tablets or solution e.g. Milton; for bottles, teats, stomach tube, lambing ropes.

Colostrum

Colostrum or colostrum substitute; you can milk some colostrum off each ewe, if she has plenty, and freeze it for future use. Goat colostrum can be used for lambs or you can buy a powdered substitute. I always buy a couple of wee packets; the use by date means that it won’t keep until the next year but it’s not very expensive and I treat it as insurance, buying it in the hope of never needing it but knowing that, if I do, it will be at 11pm on a Saturday night when all shops are closed. :-)

Ewe Milk Replacer powder

Again, it’s insurance. I share a bag with another smallholder because it doesn’t keep year to year (the vitamin content decreases) and I’ve only had to use it once in five lambings (touch wood) and that was to top up one set of twins. But you know that, if you don’t have it, you’ll need it and it will be on a Sunday. :-)

Warming box and heater

Warming box and infrared lamp or fan heater; in bad weather, young lambs can easily become hypothermic if they aren’t getting sufficient milk or if they are otherwise ill. In some circumstances, feeding a hypothermic lamb (usually with a stomach tube) can cause it to fit and die, so it’s important to raise the body temperature first.

Thermometer

In sheep, body temperature is taken rectally. Use a wee bit of lube and be sure to hold the bulb of the thermometer against the wall of the rectum so that you get an accurate reading of the animal’s body temperature – not the temperature of any faeces J The normal body temperature for a sheep is 40C / 104F

Soap and towels

Liquid antibacterial soap and paper towels; for washing up. If you call the vet out, please offer them hot water to wash up afterwards. Love your vet J

Disposable gloves

Shoulder length disposable gloves; use for any internal examinations. You soon get used to them. These long gloves are also useful for collecting and disposing of any afterbirth; pick it up in a gloved hand, then pull the glove down over the afterbirth to contain it; knot the end of the glove and dispose safely.

Lubricating fluid

Always use for any internal examination, and don’t be mean with it.

Lambing ropes

Go on a lambing course to learn how to use these properly.

Cleaning supplies

Old towels, disinfectant and buckets; for cleaning up. The towels are also useful for drying lambs.

Rubber rings and applicator

For tailing lambs and for castrating tup lambs. Again, it’s best to get your vet or an experienced shepherd to show you how to apply these. We tail all lambs but we don’t castrate our tup lambs as they go for slaughter before they are sexually mature.

By law, castration by rubber ring must be done before the lamb is 7 days old and must be done by a person over 16 years of age. We tail the lambs at a day or two old, prior to turnout. To be honest, they don’t fuss about it. It’s important not to tail too short – the tail must cover the anus and the vulva in ewe lambs and the anus in tup lambs. This is a serious welfare issue.

Spring balance and lamb sling

I like to weigh lambs at birth and again at 30 days old. This gives me some idea of how well the lambs are growing and is therefore an indicator of the quality of the ewe as a mother.

Torch and spare batteries

Essential if you are lambing outdoors. A head torch is most useful since it allows you to work with your hands free.

Record sheet / notebook and pen

Don’t think you’ll remember. You won’t. I use the notepad on my phone, because I never leave the house without my phone.

Marking stick or spray

Different folk have different ways of marking ewes and lambs – letters, numbers etc. I mark each pair of twins with a number but not singles and I don’t mark the ewes at all, but with a small flock, I know them by name; in a big flock, I would be marking ewes with singles with letters (ewe and lamb having the same letter) and ewes with twins with numbers (so ewe and two lambs would each have the same number).

I think spray is easier for this but I prefer a marking stick when I’m dosing groups of sheep – it’s easier to carry in my pocket and just crayon a mark on the head or back.

Tags and tag applicator

Legally lambs must be tagged within six months of birth if housed indoors at night, nine months if kept outside or when they leave the holding of birth, so there is no rush. However, pedigree breeders may have to tag early while it’s still clear which lamb belongs to which ewe, so that breeding and registration details are correct.

Sheep tags are quite big, especially if you have a small breed of sheep, so some breeders use turkey tags and replace them with proper sheep tags when the lambs are bigger.

We tag the ewe lambs when they are a few weeks old with sheep tags – we breed pedigree Coloured Ryelands so we have to be sure that the right tag goes in the right lamb so that the breeding details are correct. We don’t register any tup lambs and we have the lambs privately killed and sell the meat locally, so we tag the tup lambs when they leave for the abattoir.

Most of the above can be found in the TAS Shop.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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