The Ask the Experts "Lambing Time" features expert advice from two of the most prolific sheep breeders in the country. We invite you to read our expert advice from Kandy Schminke of Van Horne, Iowa and Bob Kimm of Dysart, Iowa. Be sure to continue to check back for our next edition of “Ask the Experts".
1. We had a 4 year old ewe on the farm that was about 2 weeks away from delivery. She presented no signs of prolapse and was eating and acting normal. At the routine nightly check, all was well. The following morning the ewe was dead. She had a vaginal prolapse but it was her intestines, stomach that was expelled from her vagina. I have heard that it is a rare occurance and it is one that I hope to never see again. Any thoughts on cause? I was thinking a weak spot in the uterine wall???
Bob Kimm: I have seen this occur on some Dorset ewes which were consigned to a Bred Ewe Sale I was managing while teaching at Hawkeye and also had a producer in my adult sheep program experience this, also a Dorset flock. Why, it could be genetics, yes a weakness in the tissue area of the uterine wall. But once the ewe starts to strain and her urge is to expel the fetus, for some reason she does not stop. Just as with some ewes that have a vaginal prolapse and will not stop straining.
2. What is the best way to treat lambs with leg injuries/broken leg (from ewes stepping on lambs)?
Bob Kimm: It is easy with front leg breaks or even rear leg breaks below the hock. I use lightweight material such as tongue depressors, cut strips of material from plastic containers and etc. for splints. It is best to have a second person hold the lamb so you can do a proper job with this task. Use cotton wrap first to make sure you do not cut off the circulation, then place your splints properly and wrap with vet wrap (CoFlex banding material). Most young lambs should heal within 2 to 4 weeks. Check your lower extremity to make sure you have good circulation from time to time, or maybe even re-wrap. On rear leg breaks above the hock, that requires a special cast, see your vet.
Kandy Schminke: The best luck that we have had is to have to fix the leg by having it set in a cast by the vet, it seems to do the best job in getting the leg to heal correctly.
3. What are some lambing time essentials - supplies/pharmaceuticals, etc?
Bob Kimm: Good question. Every producer will have a few different thoughts on this, but here are the most important items for me: On the meds side – Banamine, Predef, Dexamethasone, Oxytocin, Draxxin, Sulfa Meds, Scour Treatment (Tribrissen), Mastitis Tubes, Penicillin (long and short acting), Nuflor, LA 200Day One Shot – 2cc (Super B Vit, Bo-Se, and Long acting penicillin mix), Uterine Boluses and Clostridium Perfringens C-D &T. Non meds: LambCam wireless camera, heat lamps & bulbs, stored frozen colostrum, milk replacer, scale, rope halter, digital thermometer, stomach tube, suturing materials, scissors, 7 % Iodine, dental floss to tie off bleeding navels, antibiotic spray for wound treatment, Baby Lamb Strength or Survive, Nutri-Drench, latex gloves & OB sleeves, OB Lube, Probiotics, Propylene Glycol, bloat remedies, splint materials, Pritchard Teats or Nipples, Elastrator and O-Rings, and of course water pails, record forms, marking chalk, styrofoam cups, string, plenty of disposable syringes, needles, paper towels, barn lime, wood chips, straw and jugs or lambing pens.
Kandy Schminke: Baby Lamb Strength from Pipestone-every lamb gets one pump in mouth as soon as the lamb is moved to the lambing jug. Strong Iodine to dip the navel into as soon as moved to lambing jug, Stomach tube & syringe, heat lamp, emasculator & bands, ear tagger and ear tags. Pharmaceuticals-Oxytocin, Penicillin, C&D Overeating Vaccine-Toxoid, Tetanus Antitoxin, Vitamin E, LA-200, Banamine, Naxcel
4. Advice for treating/managing a ketotic ewe?
Bob Kimm: You will need to work with your Vet on the amounts, but I have used Propylene glycol and or molasses & Nutri-Drench orally along with Dextrose injectable. If I know the exact lambing date, I have gone ahead and induced the ewe within 3-4 days of her due date with Dexamethasone. A good friend and producer shared this with me concerning her treatment: Use CMPK gel also great for milk fever. She also puts out protein tubs a month before lambing commences, making sure it is formulated for sheep containing no copper.
Kandy Schminke: Keep her energy level up-80 percent of the growth of the fetus occurs during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy-nutrition is key-ewes with singles need 1 pound feed/day-ewes with twins need 1.5 pounds feed/day. Proper nutrition is probably the most common factor with this disease, but stress can also trigger this to happen, too. Propylene Glycol (2 ounces, 3-4 times a day)
5. I have a mature ewe due in ten days with twins. This morning she is beginning to show early signs of ketosis. She is eating well. I will gradually add more protein and energy to her ration. I would like to stay away from using Propylene glycol if possible. What do you suggest?
Bob Kimm: By the time you receive these thoughts, it will be too late for this ewe. I would suggest you refer to previous question on a ketotic ewe.
Kandy Schminke: Can try Intravenous Glucose(100 ml of 40 percent glucose) plus glycerol and insulin-consult your vet to treat.
6. I have a yearling that aborted as a ewe lamb. This year she had twins and not a drop of milk. What should I do with aborted ewes so they don’t lose their bags?
Bob Kimm: I am not sure the fact that she aborted as a ewe lamb is the reason she has no milk as a yearling. Genetics may be to blame, but hard to say what other reasons may be involved. With abortions, make sure you follow up by treating the uterus with a bolus or med of some sort, plus keep the ewe on antibiotic treatment for two to three days.
Kandy Schminke: This is unusual, I would guess you had a bacteria infection that she had gotten in her udder. As long as you are not stripping their teats out you should be able to prevent this from happening. Keep the aborted ewes penned in an isolated clean pen with plenty of bedding and continue observing ewes as they do dry up to make sure there is no unusual swelling in either side of the udder.
7. What is your preferred way to try and warm hypothermic lambs?
Bob Kimm: You want to do it slowly. Many have built a box with a heat source such as a lamp, hair dryer or heating pad used to supply the warmth needed to bring the lamb’s temp back. Check with your vet on a dextrose solution and how to administer such via an injection directly into the lamb’s stomach cavity along with stomach tubing the lamb once it is warm. My method is to bring them into the house in a low profile box and place in front of a heat duct and wrap the lamb in a towel then maybe place a heating blanket on low underneath the lamb.
Kandy Schminke: I would stomach tube the lamb with 2 ounces of colostrum, then give him 2 pumps of the Lamb Survivor and then put the lamb under a heat lamb that can be protected from the ewe. Usually after this you will see a response. If still weak after an hour you will need to give the lamb more colostrum, keep lamb out of all drafts, and protect the lamb from the ewe in the pen until he is stronger to get up.
8. Could you briefly go over the three things each shepherd should do, in your opinion, to help decrease lamb mortality.
Bob Kimm: The first and most important is to make sure the lamb gets colostrum milk. Secondly, observe the lambs (especially the first few days) for signs that they may be in trouble. Get them up, they should stretch, put your finger in their mouth - it should be warm. Pick them up - their bellies should feel full (check ewes udder, it should appear to have been nursed). And thirdly, keep your facilities well ventilated and bedding dry. Lambs can withstand cold, but not wet ammonia-ridden environments. Always avoid overcrowding in your mixing pens where lambs may be injured, and perceive possible areas where lamb can be trapped or hurt.
Kandy Schminke: Nutrition-you need to take care of the factory - make sure the ewe is receiving a proper balanced diet. Management-ewes are properly vaccinated and dewormed. Facilities-draft free lambing area, plenty of bunk space, have found that investing in a barn camera has paid for itself over and over.
9. What do you do for ewes that go off feed after lambing?
Bob Kimm: I use Predef or maybe Banamine and a little Nutri-Drench orally. Even giving the ewe a shot of vitamin B and I would give her two to three days treatment of a short acting Penicillin.
Kandy Schminke: I will give them Vitamin B Complex and Banamine, then I would also check to see if she is discharging any infection and treat them for the infection. To offer hay that has some stem to it, this seems to help scratch the gut.
10. How much faith do you put in ultra sounds and how do you use them as a management tool?
Bob Kimm: I use them a lot and as with anything the results is only as good as the person performing the work. I have used the same lady, as have many here in the Mid-West, to ultra sound for pregnancy between 45 to 90 days after breeding, with excellent results. I use this along with breeding dates to allow me very accurate lambing dates. She also does fetal counts and fetal age. I have used several individuals to scan all my sale lambs for REA and BF, starting back in the early nineties. My customers have come to expect this information and use it in their buying decisions. It is also good data to use when selecting the replacements for my flock.
Kandy Schminke: We use it to sort ewes according to their due dates and if they are carrying singles, twins,triplets-to help in proper manage their nutritional needs in their gesatation cycle.
11. When is the best time to vaccinate the ewes for over eating?
Bob Kimm: I like vaccinating my ewes at 4-6 weeks prior to lambing with Clostridium Prefringens C-D & T. I then give the lambs their first shot at four weeks and again at weaning.
Kandy Schminke: Ewes that have not been vaccinated before should be vaccinated twice, 2-4 weeks apart with the second vaccination being given 2-4 weeks prior to lambing. Annual booster 2-4 weeks prior to lambing.
12. I have a ewe that had twins. Smaller lamb died. She is a very stout older ewe(5 or 6 years old). Appetite is not very strong and lamb is hunched up . Ewe also stands around and is not her old self and is a little hunched up as well. What could have happened to her and what should I do to get her back to feeling better?
Bob Kimm: Again, these thoughts will be too late to help you with this ewe and lamb. Previously answered a question on ewe not wanting to eat with using Predef or maybe Banamine. Orally drenching her with Nutri-Drench, maybe a vitamin B shot along with an antibiotic regimen. Hard to tell but she may have something internal such as hardware or twisted gut - these treatments will not help those problems.
Kandy Schminke: I would supplement the lamb, the lamb is not getting enough milk from the ewe. Depending on what you have treated the ewe with after lambing-I would get an antibiotic into her with some Vitamin B-12 to get her appetite back up. I would also check her udder to see if she does not have quick mastitis in her udder. If that is the case you need to treat her right away and get the lamb grafted off to another ewe or put the lamb on a bottle.
13. I have a ewe that was due on the 10th and she has not lambed yet, no signs of labor. Her teats have been really swollen for about 4 days and it appears that the lambs have moved back into position. How long should I wait until I get worried and what should I do?
Bob Kimm: My answer here would be too late on this ewe. When you have a lambing date or due date that is accurate, once a ewe goes past two or three days, I would be using Dexamethasone to induce her or visit with your vet for their advice on inducing her. It never hurts to put on a glove and lube up and check to see if dilation of the cervix has started. If so, then I would be thinking about manually completing the dilation and maybe use some Oxytocin and Estradiol therapy.
Kandy Schminke: You just need to wait for the signs of labor, let nature happen. It is not uncommon for a ewe to go over her due date if she has carrying a big single or has triplets. Sometimes the teats on a ewe can get very swollen - you will just manage them after lambing.
14. What is the best way to treat a ewe with mastitis in one quarter?
Bob Kimm: It depends on the organism causing the mastitis. With Strep, I use Bovine mastitis tubes and Nuflor plus, a combination drug from my vet called Form 50 (know it has Spectinomycin plus other drugs in it). If it is a E-coli strain (which would be the worst kind) there is very little that can be done to save the udder, it will turn cold and eventually drop off. Talk with your vet on their thoughts.
Kandy Schminke: We use LA-200 at a high dose and give her a treatment for 3 days and milk the quarter out into a container and dispose of it. Massage that quarter to make sure to get all the infection milked out completely. Do this morning and night.
15. Would like the experts opinion on grafting lambs, how the process works with the ewes, and at what point does this become beneficial?
Bob Kimm: It is always beneficial if it works. The slime graft works very well for me, using fluid from the ewe at the time of her delivery on the new lamb you want to graft onto her. It helps when the lamb being graft is not too old and has already become attached to its previous dam. Try to be somewhat coy in this process and maybe even enter the ewe with a sleeved arm to stimulate her as if she is having a second lamb. I will even tie the grafted lamb’s legs so that it remains down for her to lick (it is her licking process that will mark this lamb as hers - this must occur). I have also taken a bucket of warm salt water, placed the ewes new born into this water rubbing off as much birthing fluids as I can, then place the lambing being grafted into the same bucket making sure it is totally exposed. There are many other grafting methods from skinning the ewes dead lamb, if such has occurred, and tie the skin on the lamb being grafted, to using stanchions where the ewe is confined for several days where she cannot see the lambs nursing on her ( this has also work for me but takes patience and the facility)
Kandy Schminke: Grafting lambs are very beneficial. I use the wet grafting process, what that entitles is as soon as she has dropped her lamb, I would then check her to see if she is only going to have a single and get the lamb that I’m going to graft. I would cover the lamb with fluid from the ewe and cover the lamb completely in the fluid, then the key is hold the lamb down right with the other lamb and keep the lamb in front of the ewe to get her to start licking on the grafted lamb more. I have been able to use this method many times with success. Just need to make sure to do this right away after she lambs - that is where you will get the best results. Grafted lambs do very well as this is more economical than milk replacer.
16. What do you do with new born lambs - how do you process them (shots, docking, tubing, castration, etc.) and how long do they stay in the jug?
Bob Kimm: Good question and each producer has their own thoughts here. I first let the ewe lamb in an open drop area, not jugged until she lambs. If I need to assist her in the birthing process, I use portable gates. Once delivered I move her and lambs to a jug (clean and use barn lime, wood shavings and straw between each new ewe) where I strip the ewes teats and make sure the lambs nurse. I prefer the lambs nurse on their own, but if too weak I stomach tube them. I give the lambs 6-8 cc’s of Survive orally, 2 cc’s of Day One (mixture of Bo-Se, Vit B and long acting penicillin) clip the navels and dip in 7% tincture of iodine. I do use two heat lamps for the first few hours if it is below freezing (I use no other supplemental heat in the lambing barn). I make sure to remove the afterbirth from the jug. I place two O-rings on the tails at two days of age (I do not castrate but if I did this would be the time for that as well) and depending on how pressed I am for space, singles stay in the jugs for two days, twins for 3-4 days and again this depends on the lambs progress. Triplets and weaker lambs may need to stay longer.
Kandy Schminke: We process the lambs 5 days old. We ear tag and then give the shots under the front legs, the shots that we give are Vitamin E, Clostridium Perfringens C&D Toxiod, Tetanus Antitioxin, Penicillin. Then we double band the tail and if you are going to castrate you can also do that at this time.
17. How do you start bottle lambs, and how do you convert them from bottle to bucket.? What bucket system do you use? Are all milk replacers the same?
Bob Kimm: Using a Pritchard nipple on a pop bottle, making sure they have had colostrum. Using patience, get the lamb transferred to the bucket. I just purchased a Lac-Tek Milk Machine from Pipestone Vet Clinic, hope it proves to work as well as they say it will. This machine mixes the milk as needed. No, not all milk replacers are the same.
18. White Muscle disease in babies - I know the easiest way to prevent is start with the ewe, shot of bose, and selenium blocks. What do you do if you see the baby with sign/symptoms of the disease?
Bob Kimm: I work to prevent it so never have had lambs with symptoms of White Muscle, but check with your vet or seek out a good sheep health text book such as the Sheepman’s Industry Handbook for the specific symptoms.
Kandy Schminke: I would vaccinate the lambs at birth with Bo-Se to help prevent the disease.
19. Why are several ewes not coming to milk for several hours after giving birth? I give a shot of oxytocin they come to milk.
Bob Kimm: Many factors can come into play here from nutrition, age, disease to genetics. If these ewes previously lambed before and had milk then it is hard to point a finger to the reason. But if oxytocin brings them into milk, how much and do you have to repeat? I do not have a good answer for you on this one.
20. Do you like to use overeating with tetanus or without tetanus?
Bob Kimm: I use it when giving the ewes their pre lambing shot but feel the lamb gets enough antibody for tetanus though the colostrum milk since she was timely vaccinated (at least two weeks prior to lambing) thus I give the lambs their overeating shots with only C and D at four weeks and weaning.
Kandy Schminke: At birth we use the Overeating vaccine without Tetanus. This is because we are using the Tetanus Antitoxin for immediate protection at docking, then at weaning we vaccinate the lambs with overeating with tetanus.
21. What is the most important aspect of lambing? Also, what are some feeding tips for ewes that are milking?
Bob Kimm: The most important aspect of lambing is saving every lamb that is born, if possible. That means being there and having a program of good nutrition, health and housing. I feed my ewes with twins, twice a day. At each feeding they receive a pound of shelled corn, a pound of corn gluten and 4-5 pounds of alfalfa hay, making sure they have plenty of CLEAN water and a good mineral/salt source.
Kandy Schminke: To have a high lambing percentage and low mortality rate. It all ties in with management and nutrition. Ewes that are milking are on a balanced 14 percent ration along with high quality hay to meet their daily needs at the rate of 2-2.5 lbs of feed /day.
Thank you Bob & Kandy!