Lambing is a the biggest event in the sheep farming calendar and preparing your sheds in advance of the season commencing is a crucial part of ensuring the health and safety of your flock.
Preparations are vast: from clearing the shed and setting up the pens all the way down to purchasing supplies such as gloves, stock marker and milk powder. Your on-farm set up will be unique to you and your enterprise, but no matter how you run your flock, getting ahead of the game now will pay dividends for when the time comes.
Here are some of the things that we think you should be starting to think about now:
Ventilation. Creating an environment that offers ample ventilation but not too much draught is essential in the lambing shed. A poorly ventilated shed with inadequate air circulation will often lead to respiratory issues such as pneumonia in both the ewes and lambs, whilst a shed with too much draught can be fatal for new born lambs and increases the chances of them becoming hypothermic. To mitigate this, it a good idea to utilise sheeted doors in large shed openings to a height of 1.5m, that will allow air flow through the top opening but prevent the draught from getting to the ewes and lambs on the floor.
Lighting. Adequate lighting is essential for monitoring the flock and ensuring that the ewes and lambs can see each other at all times. Utilising products such as galvanised sheeted hurdles for pens is a simple way to amplify the natural light, helping to ensure the space feels as bright and light as possible.
Bedding. Providing clean and dry bedding is crucial for ensuring the health and wellbeing of your flock. A high quality, dry straw is a great choice for bedding. Straw has excellent thermal properties and also promotes natural behaviour amongst the flock as it allows them to forage. Other types of bedding such as woodchip and shavings can also work well in the lambing shed.
Security. It is essential that the shed is secure and free from predators. Keeping entrances to sheds gated is the easiest way to ensure most predators keep out and the addition of badger proofing flaps at the bottom will help to prevent animals from going under the gate to access the shed.
Cleanliness. An unhygienic environment can be fatal for new born lambs as their immune system develops to the environment around them. Cleaning your sheds with a DEFRA-approved disinfectant before the ewes come in is a must. This will ensure you have a clean and healthy environment before you even get started.
Routine cleaning and disinfecting of lambing pens between occupants is another good precaution. Galvanised hurdles are better suited to forming lambing pens over wooden hurdles as they are easily washed and disinfected with little chance of any bacteria remaining.
In addition to preparing the shed, there are lots essential tools and equipment that you will need for a successful housing unit during lambing. Here are some of our top four:
Lambing pens. Allowing the ewe time to form a maternal bond with her lamb post lambing will ensure she feeds and cares for the lamb until it is old enough to be weaned. Therefore ensuring you have individual pens set up for the ewe and her lambs immediately after lambing is essential.
Feeding Space. Once housed in the shed the ewes will need continuous feeding in their group pens. We recommend that you allow between 450mm and 600mm per sheep (depending on its size) to ensure it has ample access to forage. A traditional sheep feed hurdle is designed to run across the front of the pen and will allow you to feed out onto the floor, alternatively, for well stocked pens where further feeding space is required, the walk through feeder can be a suitable option as it is designed to act as both a feed trough and a barrier between pens.
Adopters. Not every ewe will be maternal from the off, particularly young ewes who are experiencing lambing for the first time. You can prepare for this eventuality by purchasing a lamb adopter, which will help to build the bond between the ewe and lamb if it isn’t there to start with.
Hay baskets. Keep feed off the ground and easy to access in the individual pens by utilising a hay basket. Designed to feed both pens either side, it will keep your feeding round efficient by allowing you to easily input forage into the basket for the ewes to eat.
By preparing your sheds for lambing and having the necessary equipment on hand, you can ensure a smooth and successful lambing season. With proper preparation and care, comes a flock that will thrive during this lambing season.