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Animal Husbandry > Sheep

Care and Management

Pregnant, Parturient and Lactating Ewes

Careful management of the pregnant, parturient and lactating ewes will have a marked influence on the percentage of lambs dropped and reared successfully. So, the following steps may be taken to afford proper attention to these animals.

  • Do not handle the pregnant ewes too frequently.
  • Separate the advanced pregnant ewes from the main flock and take effective care in their feeding and management.
  • Extra feed during the later part of pregnancy (3-4 weeks before parturition) will be beneficial for the condition of the pre-parturient ewes which will help in improving milk production of ewes, birth weight and growth of lambs.
  • Inadequate and poor nutrition may result in pregnancy, toxaemia, abortions and premature births of weak lambs.
  • Bring lambing ewes into lambing corals 4-6 days before parturition and provide maximum comfort. If possible, provide soft, clean bedding and individual lambing pens.
  • Watch gestation length, which ranges from 142 to over 150 days. Early maturing breeds have slightly shorter gestation period.
  • Save parturient ewes from cold and chilly weather.

Care at Lambing / Parturition

An ewe about to lamb prefers to leave the flock. Ewe is often restless, the udder is often distended and external genital are in a flushed and flaccid condition. Generally in a healthy ewe parturition is normal. Still the following precautions may be taken during and after parturition.

  • Keep a vigilant eye for dystokia or difficult birth.
  • Maiden ewes in poor condition or small-framed ewes mated to big rams will generally have difficulty in parturition and will have to be assisted.
  • Seek prompt veterinary aid and advice from an experienced shepherd or stockman in case of dystokia.
  • Newborn lambs after being licked by the mother generally stand on their legs and start seeking for teats and suckle milk. If they are not able to do so after sufficient time, provide help to them in suckling colostrum (the first milk) which is very essential for health and survivability of lambs.
  • Save newborn lambs from cold, rain and winds.
  • Resort to artificial milk feeding or arrange foster mothers to disowned or orphan lambs. Goats can serve as excellent foster mother but ewes, which have lost their lamb early after birth, may also be utilized.
  • Ligate, sever and antiseptically dress the naval cord of the lamb.
  • Give a teaspoonful of castor oil or liquid paraffin to the lamb to facilitate defecation and passing out of meconium easily.
  • Do not handle lambs too frequently immediately after birth and let the dams lick and recognize them properly.
  • Allow newborn lambs to be with their mothers all the 24 hours for first week or so.
  • Feed sufficient quantity of good-quality hay and concentrates (if possible) to the lactating ewes for meeting nutritional requirements for early lactation.
  • Provide plenty of clean fresh drinking water as the lactating ewes drink surprisingly higher amount of water during lactation.

Care of Lambs

The lamb should be taken care of the maximum extent during early period of life. This will also ensure better survival. The following steps may be taken for ensuring better growth and survival.

  • Ensure proper suckling of lambs. Examine udders for blindness of teats or mastitis.
  • Take care of indifferent mothers and arrange suckling of lambs by restraining such type of ewes.
  • Provide creep feed (good quality hay with or without concentrate mixture) to suckling lambs in addition to suckling of milk from tenth day to weaning age.
  • If possible, make available green leguminous fodder or fresh tree leaves to lambs to nibble during suckling period.
  • Lambs may be ear-tagged or tattooed on the ear for identification (tattooing forceps and ear-tagging forceps should also be cleaned and sterilized at the time of use). Tail docking and castration may also be done in first week or so by placing elastrator (strong rubber band) at the intervertebral space and not on the vertebra.
  • Alternatively use sterilized and clean knife for castration and docking and resort to proper ligation and antiseptic dressing at the roof of scrotum with testicles before it.
  • During castration keep the lambs on perfectly dry, clean and hygienic site so as to minimize the risks of losses from tetanus.

Weaning and Care of Weaners

The management of weaners plays an important part in good sheep husbandry. The following steps are important in proper care and management of weaners.

  • Weaning should preferably be done at 90 days, although in breeds with low milk production or where re-breeding is desired it can be done around 60 days.
  • Supplementary feeding and good clean pastures for growing weaners should be provided.
  • Weaned lambs should be drenched against gastro-intestinal parasites by first month; and vaccinated against enterotoxaemia and sheep-pox.
  • Weaners should not be grazed on poor burry and thorny types of pasture since it could cause skin irritation, injury to the eyes and damage to wool.
  • They should be protected against vagaries of climates and predation.

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