Winter - Kidding and Lambing Season
Animal-nutrient requirements and voluntary-feed intake increases during the winter since does and ewes may be in mid-to-late gestation, kidding or lambing phase. Therefore, producers are advised to implement the following herd management practices. Provide winter supplementation. Assess feed options in advance to ensure that animals receive adequate protein, energy and mineral supplements. It is wise to consider feed costs, availability, ease of handling and storage, animal acceptance and nutrient contents. Producers may encounter problems if they wait until winter begins to secure hay and other nutritional resources.
It’s important to secure enough good-quality hay to provide supplemental forage until spring pastures are able to support the breeding herd. Hay should be tested for quality to determine if additional supplementation is needed. However, you should avoid overfeeding non-pregnant or early pregnant females since overfeeding could lead to metabolic disorders, reproductive failures and higher feed costs. Grouping does or ewes by pregnancy status will help you better manage nutritional resources.
You can also reduce your feed bill by culling open and non-productive ewes and does and other excess animals. In addition, be sure to monitor the body condition of the animals to make sure they are in good condition during parturition. Supplement feed as body condition warrants.
Make sure the herd has a fresh and thawed water supply during freezing temperatures. As temperatures rise, check to see whether there are any busted water lines with the potential to deplete drinking-water supplies or flood animal-grazing and resting areas.
Provide adequate shelter to protect animals from precipitation and wind-chill (especially goats) to minimize the impact on nutrient requirements and to reduce the risk of hypothermia, weakness, and death in newborn kids and lambs.
Caring for Pregnant Ewes and Does
Daily observation of animals and keeping good records are management practices that will help producers have a successful lambing and kidding season. If breeding is conducted on a year-round basis or uncontrolled, keeping records on breeding and expected lambing and kidding dates will be more challenging.
Third Month of Pregnancy
Group does and ewes based on pregnancy status.
Check females for body condition score. On a scale from 1-5, provide supplemental feeding if doe/ewes are at 2.5 or lower.
Check for worm burden by recording FAMACHA scores and/or conducting fecal egg counts. Use the FAMACHA-scoring method to treat does and ewes with higher parasites burden. Use caution when selecting a dewormer for treating pregnant ewes and does.
Fourth Month of Pregnancy
Vaccinate ewes and does with CD&T and pneumonia.
Check herd/flock at regular intervals three times a day.
Determine if kidding will take place on pasture, in isolation pens or in barns. Winter parturition may require added shelter space to prevent newborn mortality due to hypothermia.
Watch for signs of parturition such as vaginal swelling, vaginal discharge and milk letdown.
Observe behavioral changes such as isolation from the flock or herd, repeated getting up and down, apparent discomfort and restlessness, and the presence of a water bag indicating that delivery time is near.
Assist and intervene in case of dystocia (difficult delivery). Problems may arise mainly due to abnormal presentation of the fetus, two fetuses being presented simultaneously, large birth weights, small or poor condition of the dam, uterine inertia, incomplete cervical dilation or cervico-vaginal prolapse.
Check to see if ewes or does are nursing and caring for newborn animals after delivery.
Check for placental expulsion that can be retained up to 12 hours post-partum. In case of placental retention, give prostaglandin injection to induce expulsion.
Keep ewes and does in a ventilated facility with dry bedding at all times to avoid pneumonia, mastitis, lameness and other infections. Make sure there is no umbilical infection or diarrhea as a result of E. coli or Salmonella bacteria.
Enhance lamb and kid survivability by preventing starvation and hypothermia.
Determine if ewes or does are providing colostrum to newborn. Kids and lambs born outside in cold conditions will quickly succumb to hypothermia, starvation and death if they do not adequately suckle within the first 12 hours of life. Colostrum is an early source of immunity and stimulates intestinal motility for the passage of the meconium (first feces) of the newborn. Provide artificial colostrum and milk replacer as an alternative if dam does not provide adequate colostrum or milk. When using a feeding milk replacer follow manufacturer recommendations and be aware of product concentrations and dilution to avoid diarrhea. Prevent lamb or kid choking, pneumonia or death that could occur when liquids flow in the wrong direction down the trachea and into the lungs. These events can be avoided by regulating the size of the holes of the nipples. Bottle and nipples must be sterilized to prevent bacterial gastrointestinal infections.
Disinfect umbilical cord or navel cord within 12 hours after birth by dipping the cord in an iodine solution. Pinch and clip the umbilical cord to about one inch if it is too long.
Ear tag, weigh and record sex of lamb/kidding soon after birth.
In a herd with a history of white muscle diseases, inject 1/2 cc of Bo-Se (selenium, vitamin E) once to lambs and kids at birth. Repeat the dosage 3-4 weeks later. Commercial mineral feed mixes can also provide adequate levels of selenium and vitamin E. Provide minerals to pregnant ewes and does to prevent selenium/vitamin E deficiency and white muscle disease among lambs and kids.
Pneumonia can also lower newborn survivability. Signs of pneumonia include a temperature over 104 degrees, nasal discharge, rapid and difficult breathing, and a wet cough. Watch for poor barn or facility ventilation and damp bedding. Try to keep lambs and kids in dry bedding. Producers should consult with local veterinarians to assess local disease risks when developing a winter herd health management plan.
Maria Lenira Leite-Browning, DVM, is an Extension animal scientist at Alabama A&M University.