Lambing season is perhaps the most anticipated time on any sheep operation. You’ve prepared your matings, got the ewes bred and waited for the next crop of potential show lambs, replacement ewes and sire prospects to hit the ground. However, during those approximately five months of gestation, you have plenty of time to prepare your flock for a successful lambing season.
Perhaps the first step in making sure that your ewes develop and deliver healthy lambs successfully starts with proper health and nutrition. Chad Charmasson, Hennessey, Oklahoma, has been involved in the sheep industry his entire life. His grandfather owned a commercial sheep flock while Chad was growing up. As an ag teacher in Elgin, Oklahoma, Charmasson and another family started raising club lambs with about 20 ewes. Today, he and his family own Charmasson Club Lambs, which includes 130 ewes that lamb from late December to April 1.
Charmasson said the most important thing to making sure his ewes give birth unassisted to healthy, vigorous lambs is to provide them with proper nutrition during gestation. Most of the lambing difficulties he’s experienced are due to lambs that are too big, caused by overfeeding the ewes.
“I don’t like a skinny ewe at all, but we’ve learned the hard way. It’s a little harder by having them too fat for them to have a lamb on their own,” he said.
Prior to lambing, Charmasson said his nutrition program includes a good forage and a vitamin and mineral supplement to maintain their condition. He will either have his ewes turned out on grass or feed them free-choice oat hay round bales. From breeding through weaning, his flock is on the DuraFerm® Sheep Concept•Aid® Protein Tub. Once the lambs are weaned, the ewes still stay on DuraFerm, but are converted to a loose mineral more suitable for the hotter temperatures, the DuraFerm Sheep Concept•Aid HEAT®.
“I’m a firm believer in the DuraFerm tubs being ideal for those ewes, especially when they are in gestation. It gives them all the nutrients they need, and they can utilize some dry grass or some grass hay or some oat hay. You don’t have to provide them with grain until they have started to lamb. Once those ewes have lambed, they get 2 to 3 pounds of grain a day, and they are on free-choice alfalfa until those babies are old enough to wean,” he said.
The DuraFerm Sheep Concept•Aid products are specifically designed to help the reproductive success of the flock when fed 30 days pre-lambing through breeding. They contain balanced levels of high-quality vitamin and minerals required for growth, breeding and lambing, such as organic zinc and manganese, selenium yeast and high levels of vitamin E to support maximum reproduction and health. In addition, DuraFerm contains Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying nutrient supply for maximum performance. It is research-proven to increase the energy available to the animal resulting in more milk production as well as the ability to initiate and maintain pregnancy and fertility. The Protein Tub contains 16% natural protein. The loose mineral with the HEAT package is designed to help initiate and maintain pregnancy through reducing heat stress any time the temperature reaches 70 degrees or hotter. It also contains garlic to deter insects.
After nutrition, Charmasson said having a clean environment to keep the ewes that are going to lamb is pivotal. You’ve got the ewes on a good plane of nutrition, now keep them healthy by providing them with a dry, clean, environment with fresh bedding prior to and during lambing.
“We went for years without a skid loader, and we finally bought a skid loader, skid steer, bobcat, whatever you want to refer to it as. I’m not sure how we did without it. That’s probably one of our most used pieces of equipment. We use it every couple of weeks, dragging the barns out and rebedding and throwing bedding out from the jugs and taking it out to the compost pile. If I were going to encourage someone to get one piece of equipment, I’d say get a skid loader. You’ll use it more than you think,” he said.
From keeping your ewes nutritionally sound to keeping your barn clean and bedded, there’s a lot to do to prepare for lambing. With a supplement like DuraFerm, your ewes will be able to have the nutrients they need to keep themselves and their developing babies healthy, giving you time to clean your barn. Check back here in a few months for more tips on a successful lambing season.