Sheep - Things to do this Month - March
SHEEP – for a March/April lambing flock:
Adjust the following dates for earlier/later lambing flocks, and see last month’s guidance for later lambing flocks
- Keep watching the calendar, refer to our Sample Flock Health Plan and adjust key management dates to fit your lambing calendar
- If you find yourself inundated with post-its and reminders of stock tasks needing to be done, treat yourself (or your shepherd!) to one of our handy combined Flock Management & Breeding Flock Planners
- Continue to monitor ewes’ condition, aiming for CS3 to 3.5 – if you’re unsure about how to do this, see “Managing Your Flock for Peak Health” DVD or watch Adam Henson on our YouTube Channel giving a demonstration.
- FEED ACCORDING TO NEED: hopefully you will have had good lambing %ages scanned – and if you have a mix of singles, twins and triplets (or more!), now is the time to separate the single-bearing ewes from the multiples so that you can feed each group appropriately during the critical late-stage pregnancy. If you didn’t scan, keep condition-scoring the ewes and make sure none get too fat or too thin.
- Give all ewes a booster (Heptavac-P) against clostridial diseases and pasturella at between 4-6 weeks before they are due to lamb
- It’s never too early to check you have all the supplies ready for lambing, you can download our Lambing Equipment List for a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need, as well as a few luxury items for the shepherd!
- Continue feeding concentrates to the in-lamb ewes at a ‘stepped-up’ rate, adjusted according to the scanning results – we’ve prepared a sample chart and guidance notes to help you calculate the amount of feed you’ll need: Nutritional Management of the Ewe in Late Pregnancy - remember, never feed more than 0.5kg per head at any one feed!
- Check hay and straw supplies are adequate for the outdoor or housed lambing flock, depending on your system.
- If you’ve had your forage analysed and it shows any mineral or trace element deficiencies, consider supplementing the ewes with a mineral drench or long-acting bolus 4 weeks before lambing
- Ask your vet to Blood test (BOHB) ewes if you are concerned about their nutritional status (protein, energy, trace elements)
- Newborn lambs are very vulnerable to infection, so a few weeks before you are due to bring the flock in, thoroughly disinfect the lambing shed (floor and walls), hurdles, buckets, feeders and hayracks – dilute the disinfectant as indicated, and use a pressure sprayer to get thorough coverage of all surfaces.
- As lambing draws near, observe ewes’ behaviour – separation from the flock may indicate metabolic diseases that can affect ewes in the late stages of pregnancy: Twin Lamb Disease (also called ‘Pregnancy Toxaemia’), Hypocalcaemia (also called ‘Milk Fever’), and Hypomagnesaemia (also called ‘Grass Staggers’): these are life-threatening – see “The Breeding Flock” DVD for descriptions of each of these diseases, both pre- and post-lambing, and how to treat them, or read our article HERE
- While the ewes are feeding at the trough take the opportunity to check udder development as lambing nears – this will both give you an idea of how close they are to lambing, as well as making sure all is progressing well.
- At lambing: treat navels as soon as possible after birth
- Record birth weights and ‘ease of lambing’ scores on a scale of 1-5 (FOR EXAMPLE: score 1 means the lamb was born with no human help, and stood and sucked within an hour of birth; score 5 would indicate an assisted birth and/or the lamb needed to be tube-fed), this information is invaluable for selecting replacement breeding ewes for future years
- Lambs are born with a supply of brown fat around their kidneys that will sustain them for about 5 hours, during which time it should suck from its mother. Any lamb that doesn’t suck within this time is at danger of hypothermia (one of the greatest killers of lambs). Monitor new lambs closely and tube feed any that haven’t fed by this time and are still holding their head up – never tube a floppy lamb. These life-saving protocols are described in full on our DVD “The Breeding Flock”, or read our article “Lambing 4 - Helping the Newborn Lamb".
- Clean and disinfect lambing pens between lambings, and use a powder disinfectant (eg. Stalosan) sprinkled on group housing areas at least every other day