Getting prepared: Are you ready for lambing to start?

Being well prepared is essential for a successful lambing season. Here are 5 top tips to consider before the newborns arrive, including everything from getting your housing facilities ready to the must-have items for your lambing kit.

Getting prepared: Are you ready for lambing to start?

Top tip #1: Prepare an action plan 

Lambing is a busy period and there may be occasions when more than one person is responsible for managing the lambing shed. Make sure that there is enough skilled labour available (minimum 1 person/250 ewes) and agree an action plan with the whole lambing team to help the lambing period run smoothly. Some farmers prepare lambing protocols for all possible eventualities and have a meeting with all staff before the start of lambing. This helps ensure that everyone understands their role and responsibilities and that procedures are routinely followed and recorded.

Top tip #2: Get your housing facilities ready

  • Lambing sheds: should be clean, drained and well ventilated but draught free. Ensure there is adequate lying area for ewes (1.3m2 ) and easy access to water and feed.
  • Lambing pens: allow 1 pen space for every 8 ewes. Each pen should be a minimum size of 2m x 1m. You should provide a hay rack, feed bucket and water bucket in each pen. Every pen should be cleaned and disinfected and new bedding provided between each ewe.
  • Hospital facilities: organise an intensive care unit for weak lambs. The hospital area should be away from the main lambing area, with access to hot water and a power supply. Lambs which are to be artificially reared should be healthy and not therefore kept in the hospital area.
  • Isolation pens: isolation pens are essential in any flock. By isolating sick animals from healthy ones, some protection is given against the spread of infectious disease. 

Top tip #3: Check the lambing toolkit

The lambing toolkit needs to be well stocked and all equipment should be clean and accessible. Useful items in your lambing kit list include: lubricant, disposable gloves, disinfectant, markers/tags, iodine solution, glucose solution, electrolytes, infra-red lamps, a warming box, prolapse harnesses and lambing ropes. You’ll need to speak to your vet about appropriate drug use, but do make sure that sterile needles, sterile syringes, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories are in your lambing kit.

Top tip #4: Stock up the feeding equipment

Ensure you have spare colostrum and good quality milk replacer on stand-by for orphan lambs and poor doers. Colostrum can be fresh or frozen ewe’s colostrum, cow’s colostrum or a colostrum substitute. Teated bottles or an automatic milk machine will be required for feeding milk. Stomach tubes may be required for weaker lambs. Scales, a thermometer and a whisk are essential for preparing milk replacer accurately. All feeding equipment should be cleaned daily and disinfected twice weekly.

Good quality colostrum is essential for feeding newborn calves. If quality is not good enough you can use stored good quality colostrum, or consider an colostrum alternative such as Volac Calf Volostrum which has been shown in trials to act as a successful alternative to colostrum for calves.

Top tip #5: Keep a record

Recording books and white boards are valuable tools at lambing time. Good record keeping ensures that everyone knows how individual animals have been treated and what actions need to be taken, when the team changes shifts. It is a good idea to record numbers of all lambs born, alive and dead, to build up a picture of where lamb losses are occurring. Try to record the number of ewes that abort or do not lamb and also the number that die between scanning and lambing. Where possible, record the causes of these deaths. All of this information is highly valuable for benchmarking flock performance and identifying areas for future intervention and improvement.

Download our Handy Lambing Guide today and make sure you are ready for lambing season to start.