New shepherds look forward to lambing season like kids look forward to birthday parties. But instead of waiting to receive presents, you get to deliver them. As a new sheep farmer, you will help with some magical moments soon.
And they are, by far, the cutest, softest and sweetest moments of any hobby farmer’s experience! Getting prepared for your first lambing season isn’t hard, but it does require some time and resources readied ahead of time.
The list of supplies are easy to collect. Most importantly, you should have your lambing jugs set up.
Jugs are small pens for inexperienced ewes and their new lambs to help with bonding, feeding and general safety. They protect the fragile lambs from the elements and keep them in a place so you can monitor and attend to their growing needs.
These lamb jugs do not have to be expensive or specially made. You can use some cattle panels or even cleverly connected wood pallets to make an impermanent pen for the little ones and new mothers.
The usual supplies are as follows:
- clean towels
- lamb paste for nutrient boosts
- electrolytes for your ewes
- rubber gloves
Some shepherds prefer to have rubber bands for tail docking, and tetanus and CDT injections on hand for instant shots. (I personally wait a few days for this and tail docking.) If you have all of these supplies at the ready, you are almost prepared!
Out of everything you prepare for on your farm, the most invaluable and important preparation you can make is having a mentor on call or on farm during your first lambing. A mentor can help make a smooth lambing go perfectly—and a rough one go safely.
Mentors are worth their weight in gold. Find someone who raises sheep in your area to help lead you through these beginning stages.
As a new shepherd, you can belong to a dozen online forums and read books for days on end. But having someone there to physically reach inside and reposition a breached lamb is something you can’t order on Amazon.
Most ewes do not need much assistance with the actual birthing. This is especially true of heritage breeds, which were selectively bred by farmers long before us to have ease with lambing and naturally fantastic mothering skills.
If you are working with more modern commercial breeds, there is a possibility something could go wrong (there is always this possibility regardless of breed!) So have a vet’s number saved to your phone just in case.
Most issues with lambing aren’t super serious, but you may need to re-position the lamb or help extract it. Always be ready to act. It can save a small life.
A Frenzied Season
Once the first lambs arrive, your days and nights will become fairly hectic, depending on the amount you are expecting.
Since my own ewes don’t have a barn, lambs were born in the field. I brought the mothers and their new charges lambing jugs built inside field shelters. This meant walking by lantern light several times on cold March nights, exhausted and eager, looking for signs of new life.
They are memories I will never forget and hope to create again.
Always remember that nobody is perfect and mistakes will be made. But by taking the time to be ready for the worst, you are ensuring your new livestock is set up for the best. I wish you luck with your first lambing season and many woolly returns to come!