Soay Sheep Lambing 101: the Kit

Anticipation, excitement, and a certain tension are in the air – a sure sign it is almost time for lambing to begin. When we start getting edgy about all we have left to do before the first lamb appears, one of us inevitably asks how we are doing on supplies and equipment. On a rainy late winter day it helps to go through the calming exercise of laying out what we have, taking inventory, and restocking from catalogs or a quick trip to town.  It’s an important event in the Soay sheep calendar year.

The really critical lambing “stuff” goes in the Lamb Kit itself, so I will start there – the subset of supplies we actually bring with us as we head out to greet each new arrival.

A brief aside: When Soay sheep breeders brag about how easily their ewes give birth, they are not exaggerating. The ewes just do it, no muss, no fuss. As soon as the lamb is on the ground, the ewe cleans it off, gets it on its feet and encourages it to start nursing. Once the lamb has a full tummy and is producing its own heat, the immediate crises of birth are past.

But because we live in an area extremely deficient in selenium, an essential element, our vet recommends giving both the ewe and her lamb a selenium injection as well as a shot of vitamins. And, because Steve’s focus is pedigrees and tracking genetic characteristics, ear tags also are essential identification tools. The ewe cannot address these issues, so we help out. We have a standard routine we follow with each lamb, usually about 2 or 3 hours after birth or the first thing in the morning after an overnight birth.

And that brings me back to the Lamb Kit itself. Here is what it contains:

  • Nitrile gloves
  • Iodine for the umbilical cord
  • Thermometer
  • Portable scale
  • Clean rags or towels
  • Syringes pre-loaded with selenium and vitamin supplements
  • Baby ear tags & applicator
  • Lambing cards & pencil
  • Flashlight

All of this fits neatly in a rectangular plastic container with a handle that looks every so much like a fairly deep tool box.  We got ours from the local farm store and I think it is designed for use with horses. It has a nifty groove on its bottom side so it straddles the wire fence and can’t tip over, always a plus when you are working with slightly gooey, wriggling new lambs.

Here’s a picture of our Lamb Kit, partly loaded, sitting on a fence in front of one of our sheep shelters.  Cat, contrary to appearances, is not part of the kit.

Lamb Kit

This post has gotten long enough.  Details on what the various items in the Lamb Kit contribute to the mix in the next few posts.

For now …


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2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Kathie says:

    I also keep extra syringes and needles and a set of surgical scissors in my lambing kit. Sometimes the umbilical cord stump is so long it drags on the ground. In those cases I trim it a bit before I immerse it in iodine. I find I like a used prescription pill vial for iodine, it is deep enough that I can immerse the entire umbilical cord up to the belly in it without having to tip the lamb over and I can just put the cap back on it when I am finished. A roll of paper towels is also very useful in a lambing kit.

  2. priscilla says:

    All good additions and they will appear in the next year’s edition of The Lamb Kit. You obviously are more coordinated than I am. The thought of putting a cap back on a child-proof prescription bottle while also holding a wriggling lamb with a paintbrush umbilical cord whipping about is a daunting one! I guess in the end it’s six of one, half dozen of the other, isn’t it?  I don’t have to put a cap back on but when I set down my dipper it remains at risk of spilling with a cap. Hmmm.