Everything you need to know about lambing in the winter.
Lambing in the winter is one of those things nobody wants to have happen to them! Especially here in Canada, it’s cold… really cold. But it just so happens that our ram, Bravo, hopped the fence this past August and quickly got to work. So here we were a few weeks ago (during that extreme cold front) with -30 temps and a new lamb. All in all, I guess no temperature is too cold to lamb, as long as they have access to a barn (unheated).
We knew they were all pregnant and we’re expecting them to give birth in the spring, but Mackenzie had noticed one of our ewes, Rescue, utters had dropped. I mean, it was low and full and ready. So we thought… hmmm, looks like she will be giving birth sooner rather than later.
It was later that night, I had gone out to check on Rescue, thinking I’ll just take a peek and quickly go back inside. Well, nope. Our new plans for the night were taking care of a precious lamb that was just born!
The first thing I did was run back inside to get Mack. We got bundled up and out we went. We grabbed a towel and wrapped babe up and rushed him into the barn to keep warm. Thankfully we had put down bedding in a stall earlier that day so it was all ready. Mom followed with Mack. We wiped baby boy him down as best we could, and then got a hair dryer to dry him a little more. And yes, our first ram lamb!! Mom was licking, but since it was so cold out we really wanted him to dry up fast! Allow mom to lick as much as possible, as this is important and aids in bonding!
The next thing we did was set up some heat lamps. We normally wouldn’t have done that (or any of this) if it was spring. They would just be lambing on pasture and be perfectly fine. But since we were experiencing these frigid temps we had to do something, or babe would have died. We set up 3 heat lamps in a safe spot for the night. This was key because he was still a little wet, so the heat really helped to dry quickly.
It was a long night, but so amazing to experience this. We checked on him before bed a few more times, and he was already feeding from mom!!
5 Main Things To Look For When Winter Lambing
1. Wax Plugs
To ensure that the lamb is getting colostrum and milk you must make sure that the teat is not clogged. Most of the time there will be a wax plug on the end of the teat that prevents milk from coming out. So when you think your lamb is getting milk, it’s probably not. Simply pull the teat downward and the pluck the plug off. We like to ‘test’ our ewe out every couple days and make sure milk is flowing.
2. Whipping Tail
One of the most heartwarming things to watch! If you’re concerned that your lamb isn’t getting milk, be on the lookout for that whipping tail back and forth. It’s a tell-tale sign that the lamb is happy and getting fed.
3. Umbilical Cord
The umbilical cord will naturally separate itself from mom. But you will need to trim it down to prevent infection. Cut the cord 2″ from the lamb and have a solution ready to dip the tip into. The solution should be a 7% iodine solution. We got one that was ‘non-stinging’. We did this that night, and once a day for about 5 days to ensure that no infection would start.
4. Weight Gain
Be sure to keep close attention to your lamb the next few days after birth. You want to make sure they are gaining weight, look alert, are curious, and starting to get playful. You want to make sure they are not starving! If you notice they are, try to get them to nurse on mom, or bottle feed.
5. Nutrients for Mom
Be sure to give mom some nutrients after birth too! She did the hard part, after all. Some people recommend molasses, but we just gave her alfalfa pellets, water, good quality hay, and access to her mineral lick.
All in all, our lamb is doing great! Its been 3 weeks and they are finally back out with everyone else. We are looking forward to the rest of the lambing season, this SPRING!
Let us know if you have questions.