Lambing at WOOLFARM
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CAUTION: The following "birthing" photos are not for queezy stomach.
Please browse at your own risk.......
(Please be patient as the photos load.....)
These photos were taken during the labor/lambing process here on our farm.
2003 will be our 10th year lambing, but I feel that no matter how long I am a shepherd, there will always be a special joy in seeing new lambs enter this world. There's nothing quite so personally satisfying than knowing you were able to assist a ewe in trouble, deliver her lambs OR to simply watch from a distance when everything goes well as it normally does.
About 140 days after putting the rams in with the ewes for breeding, I begin watching the flock closely. I have had lambs as early as Day 139, and my lambing usually is 95% complete within 21 days. I prefer to be with a ewe when she lambs, so during lambing time I spend MOST of my entire days in the barn. Obviously some are born while I'm sleeping, and that's OK too, but whenever possible I choose to be with a ewe during lambing.
The onset of labor is usually not noticed by the shepherd until the ewe begins to separate
herself from the rest of the flock, though after a shepherd has lambed a ewe for a few years, it becomes increasingly easy to spot the signs, just by knowing her "normal" behavior. Suddenly when she isn't acting like herself, you know the time is near. She might have a far-away "dazed" look about her. Many times she'll look for a corner away from the flock and other sheep. This all happens after several days of watching her udder develop, and becoming larger and larger. Exactly just HOW large will depend on the individual ewe. Her vulva will usually begin to turn slightly pink in color, and become obviously puffier than normal, while at the same time "softening". This is completely normal, and in fact enables it to do the stretching required during lambing.
As labor progresses, she may stand still for several moments with her head hanging.
Notice how this ewe's udder is enlarged. She might walk from place to place,
as if trying to decide whether anywhere is the "proper" space to deliver her lambs.
She will begin laying down, standing up, walking in a circle, perhaps pawing on the ground,
and then lay down again. During this time her contractions will grow stronger and harder.
Sometimes she might look backwards as if to see what is causing her pain.
It's around this time, that many ewes will being "talking" to their lamb,
even though it hasn't been born yet. Notice that the water sac is beginning to emerge.
She may choose to do several more "ups and downs" alternating with turning in circles and pawing.
If there is continued "progress" then there is NO reason to intervene. If however, there is no sign of feet of a lamb showing at the vulva within 1 hour of first seeing the water sac, I will check her internally. To do this, I put on a plastic glove, dip my gloved hand/arm into a disinfectant solution,
heavily lubricate hand and wrist area, and gently see if a lamb is malpresented. If not, let her continue to "lamb" on her own. If a malpresentation is found, try to calmly and gently (key words here) and
always using LOTS of lubrication, try to reposition the lamb to it's correct birthing position, or if unable to accomplish this yourself, call your veterinarian immediately. Always keep in mind when assessing a lamb's position inside a ewe, that the first thing to determine is WHICH legs you are feeling........ front or rear? Easy way to determine, is that the front legs bend the same direction at the wrist AND knee joints (whereas the hind legs bend opposite directions at the wrist and knee joints).
Water sac has broken, and feet are emerging, followed slightly by the lamb's nose.
The slimy water sac is providing excellent lubrication for ease and protection of the ewe.
Photo above shows front legs and head of lamb out.
Shoulders of lamb emerging.
Lamb completely born. Mom will immediately begin licking lamb, normally starting at the nose/head.
If she is very slow or the sac is unusually tough or mucus really thick, then I will intervene with a quick wipe or two of the nose. At the same time, dip the navel with iodine. Also, make sure that both teats are "open", as they have a waxy"plug" in them to eliminate bacteria entering during pregnancy. Then I back away and allow the ewe and her new lamb time to bond and enjoy their special time together!
Lamb has been completely "licked" dry by mom. She will continue to lick and talk to the lamb
As the lamb nears the udder, mom will lick under it's tail which stimulates the "sucking" action.
After several minutes, the ewe will begin noticible contractions for her twin lamb, but will continue to pay close attention to her first lamb as she contracts for the second.
Feet and nose of twin lamb emerging.
As mom tends to her newly born 2nd lamb, the first lamb nurses.
THAT'S a busy mom!!
Mom and twin lambs are put into a "lambing pen" (4' x 5' portable pens that we line our barn walls with during lambing time.) During other times of the year, lambing pens are great for other things like sorting sheep, catch pens, keeping lambs from "escaping" under a gate, etc.
Give the new mom a fresh bucket of water and a flake of hay, and mom is completely happy, comfortable, and satisfied.
Mark your records with pertinent information regarding lambs and birthing process.
Then sigh a relief that it's an Icelandic sheep, because there's no tail docking needed ;-)