Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lambing Jug Basics

Photo:  One of last year's lambs hiding from the lens of Tharren's camera. 

In a few weeks we'll be setting up the Home farm's lambing barn. This involves tracking down panels and connector hinges in order to build lambing jugs.

A lambing jug is a small pen in which that a ewe stays in after giving birth to her lambs. The ewe and her lambs stay in the jug for up to 3 days. This allows the ewe and lambs to bond with one another without being interfered with by other ewes. Jugs also allow shepherds to keep a close eye on the ewe and lambs.

Photo: Lambing jugs complete with ewes and lambs. One or two jugs open to allow the ewes in the holding pens access to water. The ewe and lambs in the foreground are marked with Sprayline stock marker. This helps temporarily match the lambs to their mother. 

To build lambing jugs we use our welded wire panels. Other folks like to use wood or plastic panels.

During the breeding season we used marking harnesses and multiple marking crayons in order to best determine when our ewes should be expected to lamb. Based on this data we separate the ewes into a number of drop pens in the lambing barn shortly before they're due to lamb.

We keep an extra eye on a ewe when she begins to show signs of going into labor. Signs typically include the ewe isolating herself from the flock, pawing at the ground and starting to build a nest. After a ewe has lambed in the drop pen she is put into a jug with her lambs.

Feeders or waterers are secured to a wall or one of the jug's panels. If a ewe can knock something over, she will. Secured items don't spill as much water or waste as much feed.  We're lucky in that the water system for the lambing barn runs along the west wall. It is a supported PVC pipe with water holes cut every 3-4 ft. The constantly flowing water is gravity fed and we have not had an issue with it freezing.

Photo: Our watering system running along side the lambing jugs. We cut our panels so they fit over the frame and piping. Sometimes we'll put a heat lamp in a jug on very cold days or newborn lambs. It is clipped and tied to the panel to prevent it from being knocked down. 

Bedding should be refreshed after a ewe has left a jug. This reduces disease potential and lowers the amount of moisture in the bedding.