Depending on your lambing/kidding season your girls may be starting to look like they swallowed watermelons!
The most important part of small ruminant management is the management of ewes and does prior to lambing/kidding. If your flock is only handled once a year, 30 days prior to the start of lambing/kidding season is the time to choose.
- Pregnant ewes/does should be handled to assess their Body Condition Score (Ideally they should score a BCS between 2.5-3/5) Too fat and they may have difficulty giving birth as well as metabolic problems pre and post lambing, too thin and they may not produce adequate colostrum, experience metabolic problems, and will have difficulty supporting lambs during lactation)
- Ewe lambs and older thin ewes may need to be separated out if they haven't been already and provided with less competition for feed
- All pregnant animals should recieve a CD/T (Clostridium C, D and Tetani) booster vaccination at 3-5 weeks before giving birth. This stimulates their immune system to produce additional antibodies that will be deposited in the colostrum.
- You may choose to vaccinate your animals for additional Clostridial diseases depending on what is endemic on your farm, but the CD/T are the most important for protection of young lambs before their own immune systems develop
- Pregnant ewes at this time may be shorn or crutched (the wool around their tail, vulva, and udder clipped) depending on your preference and housing. Does rarely need crutching, though Angoras and some dairy and meat does with fluffier coats may benefit from a trim or clean up around their back end.
- This helps newborns to find clean teats instead of manure tags or dirty hair, when they search for the udder
- Depending on your mineral supplementation program, it may be recommended to administer an injectable Selenium/Vitamin E supplement to your pregnant ewes/does at this time. I prefer to always provide free choice access to a loose mineral supplement, but some management situations may cause an injectable supplement to be necessary.
- Deficiencies in selenium and vitamin E often cause weak, poor doing lambs. Severe deficiencies may cause clinical White Muscle Disease.
- Parasite management is important at this point of time as well. Different programs will involve different methods of control. It is important to work with your veterinarian to decide which program is best for your flock/herd. Some may recommend a single blanket deworming of the pregnant animals at this time, some may recommend continuing to utilize the FAMACHA program to strategically deworm, and others may recommend a fecal egg count for pre and/or post deworming assessments.
- Pregnant animals often experience what is called a Peri-parturient egg rise. This is an increase in the shedding of gastrointestinal parasite eggs immediately following parturition (giving birth). It is believed that the increased release of cortisol in the animal's body while giving birth stimulates the parasites to release increased number of eggs. An animal who had a low Fecal Egg Count prior to lambing/kidding may have a much higher FEC immediately after lambing.
- Flocks or herds with a history of late term abortions should discuss with their veterinarians if additional treatments beginning 3 weeks before lambing/kidding may decrease their late term abortions.
It may go without saying but if you have not had your ewes or does ultrasounded for pregnancy, at this point you may want to feel udder development or ask your veterinarian to teach you to "bump" the abdomen to feel for late gestation kids/lambs, to sort out animals less likely to be pregnant who may not need extra feed/attention.