Lambing Time is Approaching and All is Well at the Barn
February 19, 2011
Hope you all are staying warm on one of the coldest days of the year! The sheep are in full fleece and shearing day is Feb. 27. I hope to shear all 17 so I can get the fleeces shipped off for processing as soon as possible. On shearing day, we will also vaccinate all the sheep. The shearer has them rolled back on their lower back in a sitting position which totally relaxes them. This makes it so much easier to take a look at feet and vaccinate.
We vaccinate the pregnant ewes at least 4 weeks before lambing is scheduled to start in order to give the levels of vaccine in their bodies a chance to reach the most effective levels in their colostrum and milk. That way, the lambs are protected the first 2 months of their lives by their mother's milk. After that, their own immune systems have developed to the point where they can handle vaccines. We then vaccinate the lambs around 2--3 months of age and again 30 days later. Since I do not dock tails, I do not need to give tetanus shots at birth. (I band tails and there is no open wound in this process.) They are then fine for a year. If they stay with my flock, I vaccinate them every year. Some shepherds do not vaccinate.
The sheep area inside the barn will be clean and spread with fresh straw after shearing. The woolies will need the protection of the barn for about 2 weeks before their fleeces are long enough to protect them. They will come and go at will, but for sure will be inside during rain, snow, wind or low temperatures--all of which are possible in April! The ewes truly seem to know they are supposed to give birth in the barn where their new wet lambs are protected until they get them clean and dry and up nursing. If it is a warm, sunny day, they will be in a small area close to the house, and may give birth outside if it is warmer out in the sun. It's so fun to watch their first wobbly steps after their mum has cleaned them up! Their first meal is a high priority for new lambs.
Another thing I do after shearing is separate out the pregnant ewes so they can have grain as well as hay for that last month of lots of fetal development. That way, the ewes, as well as the lambs, are as healthy as possible at birth. The ewes will eat less hay but more of the grain as their bodies fill with developing lambs and milk. Alfalfa hay contains lots of calcium, and the grain mix is fortified with vitamins and calcium.
One more thing--I want to thank Kathleen for reminding me I am getting low on audiobooks for the car. Her blog last week recommended Ridley Pearson's newest book, and I now have the audio in hand--Life is Good, and thanks, Kathleen!