A bread bag to save a lamb

Start to save your old bread bags to put over newborn lambs when it’s wet and cold. You can buy fancy woolen covers which are great but cost money. You can buy plastic covers that tear off a long roll, and they are very handy.

But a bread bag works too. Cut one side to open it for the bottom. Cut the top corner off for the lamb’s head to poke through, and cut two small holes for the front legs. Don’t bother about holes for the back legs. The bag will help retain the heat in the main part of the lamb’s chest in very wet cold conditions.

If the bags haven’t fallen off in a couple of days, take them off. Don’t leave them lying around the paddock as stock may try to eat them.

Lambing time - which legs are which?

If you see one leg or more sticking out of a ewe that is trying to lamb, then don’t start pulling until you have had a sort out. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure the legs belong to the same lamb!
  • They could be from different lambs eg. twins or triplets
  • Know the difference between a back leg and a front leg.
  • A back leg has a hock.
  • A good general tip is to put a bit of string on a leg that you want to push back into the uterus in case you lose track of it again.

Watch for gamboling lambs

Lambs love to race and gallop around the paddocks on a summer’s evening just before dusk. They love hills and ridges in the paddock that they can race up and down. It’s a sure sign of spring. It’s often hilarious as their mothers chase them quite distressed at the kids apparently running away.

But it can be so frustrating to go out in the morning and find some lovely big lambs drowned in the water troughs. The daft things have raced flat out along a fence line or ridge and then dived into the trough. They have not been able to jump out and have perished.

Prevention is simple - put some large rocks in the troughs or get some weldmesh and make a grid to go over the troughs. Also, make sure there is enough soil or metal up to the outside of the troughs to allow little lambs to drink water. They need a lot.

Watch for the burglar ewe

Watch out for a ewe that is near lambing herself, that will steal lambs from other newly-lambed ewes. They’re a terrible nuisance and I’ve seen shepherds so wild when they were discovered that they felt like feeding them to the dogs!

It’s a case of maternal instincts that get out of kilter. They are great mothers and will mother anything, pushing the real mothers out of the way to pinch the lambs. They’ll lead the newborn lambs away, leaving the poor mother on the birth site where her water’s burst looking for her offspring.

From a distance, it’s so easy to assume they’ve lambed. It’s not until you find them with more fresh lambs a few days later that you realise that you’ve been duped. If you have any suspicions, see if you can feel lambs by palpation through the body wall. Failing that, you may have to put your hand into the vagina to see if the cervix has been opened.

If they are near lambing, then lamb them. If not shut them away in the next paddock. But make sure the fence is good.