Small stock production: Managing lambs and kids

We continue our series about raising kids and lambs. Here, we deal with management.

Ensure that ewes or does have been checked for udder health, that their vaccinations are up to date and that they are properly fed.

Also read: Protect your assets and vaccinate sheep and goats by following this vaccine programme

  • There should preferably be a fixed, predetermined mating season because then the farmer will know when the females will be giving birth.
  • This enables him or her to plan the care regime for the lambs or kids.
  • Females and their offspring should be identified so that their performance can be measured, and records kept.
  • This knowledge will help the farmer make good decisions.
  • If there are only a few animals, giving them names or descriptions will suffice, provided that the farmer can easily recognise them.
  • For large numbers, a numerical system is better. Ear notches or ear tags can be used.

Also read: Record keeping – update your flock admin

  • Weigh the kids or lambs every 2 weeks or so, using a cheap fish-weighing scale, to check that they’re growing properly.
  • Aim for 200 g per day or 1.5 kg per week.
  • If they’re not growing, or losing weight, immediate action – such as giving a high-quality creep feed – is needed.

Also read: Nutrition for kids and lambs

  • Make sure that the site for lambing or kidding is clean and not contaminated by dung or afterbirths.
  • Leave the newborns, undisturbed, with their mothers for at least 3 days, so that they can form a good, strong bond and get enough milk.
  • Lambs’ tails may be docked at three to 14 days of age, but this is really only necessary if they are wool sheep.
  • Docking is not recommended for indigenous sheep.
  • Castration is only necessary if the male lambs or kids are to be kept with their mothers for more than 3 to 6 months to prevent them from breeding.
  • Castration should be carried out early.
  • Inspect the animals daily.
  • Any animals that look sick need to be closely examined and action taken before they get too sick or die.

A good shepherd will notice problems early on and take action in time.

Remember to write down what’s been done and when, so that it’s easy to check later; don’t rely on memory only. There should be a pre-planned programme for all the tasks listed above, plus vaccinations, doses and other treatment.

Check every week to ensure they’ve been carried out, as required by the programme.

Also read: Keep records to sharpen your flock management

  • This article was written by Prof. Gareth Bath and first appeared in Farming SA.

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