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Lambing - Veterinary Work Experience Watch

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    Hello! I will be doing some lambing in a few weeks' time, so I was wondering of anyone had some tips for me - I have never done it before, and it will be my first full week of work experience, so I want to make the most of it! Any ideas on what to wear, what kind of situations I will be expected to handle and how to record it for use in interviews later would be so helpful. Thank you! xx
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    Hi there, I've been lambing a few times now so should be able to give a few pointers

    In terms of clothing: waterproofs, in particular waterproof trousers. The rest of your clothes should be comfy items that you don't mind getting dirty. Bringing lots of layers rather than fewer, thicker clothes can be helpful. Thermal vests are good, as are hoodies. Ideally any long sleeved tops/coats should be loose enough so that you can quickly pull up your sleeves. Wellies are a must, but they don't have to be steelies, it won't hurt if a sheep steps on you. Bring thick socks to keep your feet cold and make wellies more comfy. From a biosecurity standpoint you want to make sure that everything is sparkling clean. Wash your coat etc and give your boots a good scrub in disinfectant before you go. There should be no mud on them at all. Other handy things to bring include a headtorch, handcream (Norwegian Formula or something of that ilk. Iodine + the cold is not nice on the old hands ), chapstick, handwarmers and individually wrapped snacks (like cereal bars or whatever).

    With regards to what to expect, please don't be one of the people that is only interested in actually pulling the lambs. Management/husbandry of the ewes is a bigger job, so expect to be feeding/watering (don't fill water buckets too high, in case lambs fall in and drown)/bedding down/checking on the ewes for a lot of the time, as well as other general farmy jobs (some places may have kennels or stables to clean, for example). Expect to do at least partial night shifts/checks, or if not, long hours.

    It may take a while before you're able to spot a ewe in labour. That's okay, you'll learn to appreciate the more subtle signs as time goes on. A ewe about to lamb will generally find herself a wall or corner, possibly away from the rest of the flock, and you may be able to see her straining. Usually you'll see the water bag/membranes hanging out for a while before the lambs are born. The most obvious sign, though, is 'stargazing', where the ewe looks up to the sky with her whole head as she strains. Sometimes they curl their upper lip as they do this. You can kind of see it here:



    Knowing when to intervene and when not to can be tricky, as rushing in can cause more harm than good. A ewe that's straining for more than about an hour probably wants some help. Most lambs are born in a sort of 'diving' position (two front feet and a head), so if you see a hung lamb (just the head), just the legs, or a head and only one leg then that will probably need sorting. Breech lambs (born back legs first) often need help as well.

    When a lamb is born, you should ensure that it's breathing. If you pulled it yourself, take the membranes off its face and rub its body (you can be quite rough) to get it going. It can help to tickle its nose with hay to make it sneeze. Some places swing lambs like a pendulum by their back legs to get any junk out of their airways. If you didn't pull the lamb then it's normally fine to watch from a distance. The ewe will come and lick off the membranes herself.

    When you're sure the lamb is breathing, spray iodine on it's navel to prevent infection. Strip the ewe's teats (milk her to remove the waxy mucus plug to ensure the lambs can drink). Lambs should drink within 24 hours, as after this their digestive tracts become less permeable to the antibodies in the colostrum. You'll then want to pen the ewe up with her lambs so that the other ewes don't steal them (it happens )

    Before the lambs go out, they may be castrated/tail docked with rubber rings. They'll need ear tags, too, and need to be marked with the same number as the ewe (so wandering lambs can be matched back up to mummies out in the fields). Some places use the time after lambing and before going out to trim ewes' feet and drench (give wormer), as heavily pregnant ewes shouldn't be handled too much. Some places put plastic rain jackets on the lambs before they go out.

    As for tips, farmers are generally very open and encouraging, so as long as you're willing to put in the effort don't worry if you don't know anything yet. They'll teach you everything when you get there, so don't worry about remembering everything I've said here (it varies between farms anyway). If at any stage you don't know what to do, or you've tried and you just can't do it, get help. There's no shame in it, and it's better that the farmer has to stop what they're doing for a bit than they lose a lamb. It can be tricky and you're there to learn, so don't be disheartened if you can't do it straight away. If you take one thing from this post, it should be to get help when you need it!.

    If you want to be really keen, it would be a good idea to look into some sheepy diseases before you go. I'm not going to spoon feed you information, but to get you started, here's some ideas:
    • Twin lamb disease (How is it caused? How can it be prevented and treated? Does the farm scan their ewes?)
    • E. coli/scours/watery mouth (Again, how is it caused, and how can it be prevented or treated?)
    • Ringwomb (What is it? Treatment?)
    • Prolapses (Different types, what can be done...)
    • Toxoplasma
    • Listeria
    • Fluke
    (The latter two aren't really specifically lambing related, but good to know regardless.)

    In terms of writing stuff down, I find it handy to take a little notebook that I can use to jot stuff down every evening. I tend not to carry it around the yard with me, as I don't get time to write stuff down then, plus it would only get dirty. Spending 10 minutes every night before you go to sleep (or even at lunch or whatever) jotting down what I learned that day should be sufficient.

    Finally, here are some links for extra information. I especially recommend the second one:
    Big Lambing Thread - Information for students attending lambing placements.
    Advice From a Shepherd - Extensive post telling students how best to prepare and what to expect.
    The Lambing Process - a must read before lambing for the first time.
    Lambing FAQ - More in-depth information, including husbandry for pregnant ewes.
    The Lambing Process - More handy info, covering various malpresentations and how to deal with them.
    DEFRA - Government department for agriculture and rural affairs. Lots of controversial news.
    NADIS - Information on many animal diseases. Includes free webinars.
    The Sheep Site - Baaa!
    Sheep Medicine - PDF of a book by Philip R. Scott, excellent to read up on before/during lambing!
    Sheep 101 - A handy guide to all the sheepy basics
    The BBC show, 'Lambing Live' might be a good watch. The whole thing is on YouTube

    I hope that this (longer than I planned!) post was useful to you. This easily could have been about 10 times as long and I haven't even mentioned some aspects, but don't worry too much about knowing everything before you go. As I say most farmers are more than happy to teach you if you're up front about your previous experience (or lack thereof). Best of luck on your placement, lambing is great fun and I've made some great friends doing it. :sheep:
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    (Original post by Little Tail Chaser)
    Hi there, I've been lambing a few times now so should be able to give a few pointers
    Thank you so much for your reply. Everything you've said looks really helpful - thanks for taking the time to write it all out for me as well!
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    Hi, anyone looking for lambing experience please get in touch 07775707044. 600 ewes lambing indoors in a modern shed and setup. Accomidation meals etc privided. Many thanks
    Dylan
 
 
 
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