Advice on lambing placements from a shepherdWatch
I have worked on a farm supervising vet students on placement at lambing time for the past 5 years and I wanted to share some tips, and information that you may find helpful.
Firstly, I don't think that vet school sheep practicals prepare students for what to expect which is really unfair. But I hope this helps.
BEFORE YOU GO
eat healthily in the week leading up to your placement if you are not used to living in the countryside. Over the years more than half of the vet students at the farm I work on have been ill because they are not used to country side germs so try and boost you immune system before you go. Honey and garlic are good for this! If you are living in catered halls, buy some fruit and veg to eat along side your regular meals. However please try not to worry about germs too much as the last thing a farmer wants is a vet student who is scared of getting covered in **** - you are going to, but it's all part of the fun!
make sure you are up to date with coursework before you go as there is no chance of having time to do it while on placement!
WHAT TO BRING
warm clothes, at least three complete changes as this allows for one in the washing machine, one soaking wet set and one on. At least one pair of overalls, waterproofs, two pairs of gloves
http://rhmiller.co.uk/good-hands-wat...-adults-s.html ( these gloves are great as they are warm and waterproof)
more socks than you think you will use. I would recommend buying a new pair of wellies rather than taking the vet school steel toe cap ones. Steel toe caps are hard to run in, and the steel can cut into your feet if you are wearing them all the time. You will get your feet stood on by sheep, but it's not really sore. Best wellies I can recommend are muck boots but these are expensive unless you are going to use them a lot, although they will last for years!
Other things to remember - shampoo, sun cream-, moisturiser, sanitary towels if you are due, washing powder.
farms typically do not cater well for vegetarians and what you will probably get is exactly what everyone else is having, just without the meat - (this could be a dinner of mashed potato with carrot) make sure you tell them in advance that you are a vegetarian, and I would advise you to take some meals that you can bung in the freezer and heat in the oven at a later date.
WHAT TO EXPECT
if the farm has had students before they will understand that while you will come with good anatomical understanding and knowledge about diseases, the practical side will be all new and will teach you everything you need to know. If the farm hasn't, make sure you explain on the phone that you have no experience.
i have worked a number of places for lambing and the hours vary a lot. The shortest shifts I have ever worked have been 12 hour shifts. Longest shift I have ever worked was 40 hours without sleep.
Where I usually work, Vet students worked 8am until roughly 10- 12pm. Sometimes earlier or later if required.
I would be working 8am until about 2am, sometimes working all night and the following day, as would the farmer.
when you are exhausted and frustrated that you have been working so long, try and remember that the regular staff and farmer are working longer hours, and they could be doing this, 7 days a week for up to eight weeks.(then calving time starts!!!) Farmers and staff do understand that you are very tired, and appreciate it when you put in the effort despite this and work as part of the team to get the work done.
i would strongly recommend that you leave these in the house as the chance of it falling from your pocket as you are wrestling a sheep is high. or it getting drenched when you tip a whole bucket of water down your leg (it's inevitable) better safe than sorry - I lost mine in a field once...it was discovered three weeks later, embedded in the ground after being run over with a quad numerous times and still worked! it was however of the old bombproof variety and I doubt that my iphone would have come out unscathed! If you need to make phone calls during working hours, mention to the farmer at breakfast or lunch as farmers can get really annoyed if they find you abandoning the flock to chat on the phone, but they will understand if you tell them beforehand
if you haven't spent much time around sheep, I would recommend that you watch some videos of sheepdogs herding sheep. While farmers may expect you to have no knowledge of lambing, herding sheep is kind of expected to be an innate ability as people who have grown up in the countryside just kind of know what way to move to herd them. Remember their eyes are on the side so u want to stay behind them to drive them forwards, behind to the left to drive them right and behind to the right to drive them left.
this can be near impossible at times but you have to give it your best effort. If you get hold of a sheep in a field, do not let it go under any circumstance as it will be 100 times harder to catch again. If the sheep has had lambs you can generally get her to follow you if you carry the lambs at ground level in front of her.
TURNING OVER A SHEEP
Turning a sheep over which is used to being handled, and turning a jumpy, wild sheep over are two different things. This is probably one of the most vital skills so have a look on the net as there are a few techniques for doing this and you need to find the one that is right for you.
If you are right handed, hold the head of the sheep in your right hand, turn away from you, gripping the sheep at the back just in front of their hind leg and pull up and over. Visa versa for left handers (if you use the wrong hand on the head, you will have the sheep lying on the wrong side to lamb with your preferred hand.
It is highly unlikely that anyone on the farm will wear plastic gloves unless delivering rotten lambs. Most vet students do not use them by the end of their placement. This is just a heads up, do what you feel comfortable with. I find that gloves impair your ability to feel exactly what's going on, but that's just me.
Read up on positions of the lamb. Be able to recognise back feet from front feet. If the water bag that comes before the lamb is red or bloody there is likely a problem. Watch out for hung lambs - just the head out as you want to get these out fast. If in doubt ask someone - better the farmer has to stop what he is doing than you end up with a dead lamb. No one expects you to be an expert and I would much rather that someone came and got me, than tried and tried on their own. It is really disheartening when you can't work out what's going on, but sometimes having someone there who can tell you what they can feel will make it all make sense to you when you feel again.
This is more important than any other skill. The most vital observation skills are distinguishing a fit and healthy lamb from an ill or hungry one, and this is probably where vet students get most criticism (often unfairly) from farmers. The problem here is that the ability to distinguish between them is learned, and you have to see hundreds of healthy lambs, before you can recognise an ill/ hungry one. The signs may be very subtle to the untrained eye so there are a few things to look out for.
- curved back - lamb is hungry
-isn't standing- make sure all lambs can stand every morning
- swollen, distended belly - does it have an anus? If not show to farmer
- watery mouth - lamb need penicillin for infection
-cold mouth - heat box immediately
- head down, lamb listless, show to farmer
the most important thing is recognising these signs, as long as you tell the farmer or staff you have done a good job.
In the sheep, listlessness, droopy ears, prolapses, rotten smell coming from her and not eating should be quickly picked up on and reported.
DO NOT CUDDLE LAMBS as it puts your scent on them and the mother may reject them. (Cuddle the pets ones though if you just can't resist)
A word of warning. While you are there to learn how to lamb sheep, you are also there to do other tasks such as filling food and water buckets, mucking out and other general jobs. While these may seem simple it is really important that they are don't to a high standard for obvious reasons. A few years ago we had a vet student who refused to do these tasks, and looked down on myself and the farmer as she was a vet student at Cambridge and felt she was too good to do this. DO NOT BE THIS STUDENT! Apart from being disliked by the staff she missed out on the experience with the other students who worked hard, were exhausted but had a lot of laughs, and missed out on a lot of knowledge as she didn't believe that we could teach her anything.
i hope this will help some people on their placement. Lambing time is tough, but it is a really rewarding experience and you will remember some of the lambs for ever -(especially the pet or cady ones) sometimes farmers can seem grumpy but it's likely because they are exhausted. However, most are keen to share their knowledge and enjoy having vet students so ask questions when you have the opportunity. Always ask if you are stuck and as long as you put 100% effort in, no matter what mistakes you make, most farmers will be really pleased. If you don't feel competent to do something, just say, and don't feel stupid if you don't know something, you are there to learn.
best of luck to everyone on placement 2014. I am happy to answer any questions so please send me a message or ask on this thread!
From The Happy Shepherd
This is excellent, thanks so much for taking the time to type this. I tried to read up a bit before I went lambing this year, but this would have been fantastic as it covers all of the finer details. Cheers!
Any chance we could make this a sticky?
A moderator or forum assistant has to do it, hence why I gave scatealexia a notification there. Making the thread sticky will just mean that this thread will stay at the top of the forum even if nobody posts in it for a while, so people will be more likely to see/read it.
i dunno if its just me but i lamb my own ewes (pedigree and crossbred) but i always use spectam scour halt , kick start ,viesel and vitamin e capsule... an i always give extra colostrum.. thats just a practice ive always been taught...what do you use?
I shall sticky this, just to query. For watery mouth, it is mainly caused by E.Coli which is gram negative. Penicillin targets gram positive organisms only, so wouldn't work against it. You should use amoxicillin as a better drug.
The happy shepherd