EWE MIDWIFERY

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OK. So I guess that having had 8 children of my own, including a set of twins, I have always had a desire to be a midwife. A ewe midwife wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it will have to do for now! SO – I thought I’d interrupt the waiting game (the ewes still seem status quo out there!) with a little Lambing 101.

What we have here is our lambing kit. We hope and pray that all of the ingredients of the kit will not be used, but I’ll go through some of them for your interest…

When the lambs are being born, hopefully there will be nothing for us to do but watch! If Mama ewe has been at it hard for more than an hour or so, it might be time to get a feeling for what is going on in there. We will wash up our hands and her perineal area, don an obstetrical sleeve with a clean glove over the hand part, add an adequate dab of ob lube and reach in to see the positioning of the lamb(s). What we hope to see/feel is a nose and 2 front feet (from the same lamb, mind you!) Twins can get quite jumbled up in there, so you have to carefully feel for hind feet vs. fore feet, right and left vs. 2 rights/lefts. Once the necessary presenting parts are in place, we can use the lamb puller (center of photo -white handle with noose at the end) to slip over the head and feet to assist in pulling the lamb in an out and downward motion. We even have oxytocin on hand if she needs some chemical assistance with increasing contractions.

Ideally a newborn lamb will be cleaned up by Mama and will be up and standing and nursing in no time, but sometimes it is necessary to help this. Hence the pile of towels, suction bulb for the nose/mouth. Sometimes poor doing lambs are even picked up by the hind legs and carefully swung around you to use centrifugal force to help clear airways. Umbilical cords will then need dipped in povidine iodine solution to avoid umbilical infections, which can be deadly. For poor doing lambs, it may be necessary to give them glucose, IV fluids, warm enemas, etc. Occasionally a mother will reject a lamb. We have powdered colostrum and a lamb nipple on hand in the event that we have a “bottle lamb.” For the first lambing, we will attempt to milk out some of the ewe’s colostrum to freeze for any future needs – hence the ice cube tray. We also have a little french catheter to use to stomach tube a lamb that is unable to swallow. Healthy lambs will only need their cords dipped, a dose of oral selenium/vitamin E and their birth weight checked (scale in front, center of photo) – later they will need a clostridial vaccination and identification tags (front right of picture) for their ear. How do we pamper Mama after all of this? As soon as we can, we bring the new family into what is called a “lambing jug.” Here she and the lambs will have some privacy to bond and protection from the other ewes. She won’t have to compete at the hay pile, and the lambs will stay safe close to her. She will be given a big bucket of slightly warm water with molasses to give her a little pick me up and be sure that her energy levels stay up. Occasionally she will need calcium or glucose given by injection, but this would not be the norm. After a couple of days here they will be turned out with the others onto the pasture.

And so that ends our diversion for today, as we wait for the joyful moment of our first lambing!

One comment on “EWE MIDWIFERY

  1. Morning Star Meadows Farm says:

    Actually, that’s a very good question! Many would say to wait until a ewe’s second year to breed her, but there are probably just as many others who would say that it is just fine to breed a ewe lamb (less than a year old) as long as she receives adequate nutrition to maintain her growth as well as her lambs’ growth. Lucky for us, we didn’t really have to make a decision. We only had 2 holding areas and 2 rams, so during breeding season there was nowhere else for Roxanne to go but in with a ram and another ewe. So we’ll see if it worked! She seems to be eating for two now – and we thought we could palpate a fetus when we checked the ewes a couple of weeks ago!

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