Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What to keep in your kidding or lambing kit

Havencroft Kachina had these adorable twin ewes by Havencroft Neptune. The new barn gives us a great set up for jug pens to give mom and babies a safe place to bond .
 It's the beginning of lambing and kidding time here in the Ozarks on Havencroft Farm. That means it's time to keep the "midwifery" kit hanging by the door so we're ready to help when needed.

I've been a shepherd since 1979. I learned from an old-time shepherd, Finley Nelson, and from my dad's stories of having goats when he was a kid. So, I do things the old fashioned way. I am happy to learn about new ways, but I still think simple is good.

Our lambing kit is simple. It starts with towels to help mama dry off babies. Most ewes or does have twins, so if we can help her by drying off one while she goes about the business of having the second, that's good. If it's cold, getting the babies dry quickly will help them stay warm.

Scissors, iodine, towels and clean straw are staples for planning on Havencroft Farm. 

The next thing that's in the kit is a sprayer bottle of iodine for spraying the lamb's umbilical cord. It's vitally important. We always iodine babies. Sometimes we dip navels, but for the last few years we've been drenching them well with the sprayer.

We also keep scissors in the bag, just in case we need to trim umbilicals that are dragging the ground, or trim wool away from udders on sheep that haven't been sheared yet. The next thing that is vital is making sure that babies nurse very soon after being born. They need the protection of the first milk, colostrum, to protect them from bacteria and to get their gut working. We check the mama's udder, making sure the colostrum is flowing freely even if we weren't there for the birth. We also check to make sure babies have full tummies and warm, moist mouths.

If the babies are too weak to nurse, or if there is any other reason they can't get colostrum within an hour of being born, we thaw out some frozen colostrum from last year, or earlier in the year and use a bottle or dose syringe to get it down them. We always freeze excess colostrum from our dairy goats in two ounce bags for just this purpose. Colostrum and soaking navels in iodine are considered absolutely necessary on our farm.

Something else I try to keep in the kit are recycled shopping bags. They are handy for disposing of after birth. We keep that cleaned up because we do have coyotes, raccoons and other predators that we don't want to invite with the smell of new birth.

We also make sure we have clean, dry bedding available. Some of our ewes choose not to use it, but we try.

Finally, we keep molasses in the kit. We mix about 2 tablespoons (or glugs)  in a bowl of warm water to offer to every new mom after giving birth. Most of them drink it down. It gives them water, sugar for energy and minerals like iron to help replace what they've lost.

It's not much, we keep it simple. We also do regular night time barn checks during kidding and lambing season. The whole flock gets used to the flashlight as the silly humans wander through their sleeping place two or three times a night. We are respectful of their sleep and try not to shine the light hard on any ewe or doe unless something looks unusual.

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