Goat and sheep production is beginning with optimism in 2021 as we are dealing with record or near-record goat and lamb prices. Goat and sheep farmers are in the midst of the birthing season, dealing with kidding and lambing. This time of year requires animal husbandry skills and emphasis on nutrition and health.

A good amount of the preparation for lambing and kidding actually occurs before the breeding season. Body condition, nutrition, and herd or flock health are all important factors to think about and manage as you come into breeding. But, as we are currently in the thick of most folks’ lambing and kidding season, there are some things you can do to prepare for the immediate task at hand.

A week or two before offspring (sheep=lambs, goats=kids) arrive, check your supplies and equipment. Have your birthing kit all stocked up; make sure your obstetrical tools are in good condition, clean, and disinfected. You’ll want your scissors sharp and sterile, your stainless steel bucket clean, and your obstetrical loop in good shape. Stock or restock items like disinfectants, syringes and needles, gloves, lubricant, and towels.

You will also want to have feed for newborns on hand. You’ll want colostrum replacer and milk replacer. Be sure that feeding bottles are disinfected and bottle nipples and stomach tubes are clean and unobstructed. Ideally, mothers will be able to feed their offspring just fine, but it is good to be prepared with these supplies in case there are struggles. Weak offspring, weak or first-time mothers, or “bad” mothers can result in issues with lambs or kids getting enough nutrition. For these scenarios, it is advised to have supplemental feeding supplies at the ready.

Another important consideration is setting lambs and kids up for a healthy start to life. As you prepare your space to be conducive to young offspring, you want to make sure your space is sanitary and well-ventilated to help prevent diseases. You’ll also want to think about the vaccinations your new lambs or kids will need, plus the proper timing for administering these vaccinations. A veterinarian can help you with this.

By preparing your supplies, providing proper nutrition for your flock or herd, and getting to know your veterinarian, you can dramatically improve your survival rate this lambing and kidding season.

This article provides some basic information, but for more information about the time from birth to weaning, please join University of Minnesota Extension’s “Keep Your Kids/Lambs Growing Strong” webinar on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m.

Dr. Travis Hoffman, NDSU/UMN Extension Sheep Specialist, Kyle Rozeboom, UMN Department of Animal Sciences Instructor, and Skip Anderson, NDSU Sheep Unit Shepherd, will provide guidance for lamb and kid processing, beginning rations, and overall lamb and kid health. Register at: z.umn.edu/SheepGoatWebinar. If you have questions or would like help registering, contact Claire LaCanne.

Claire LaCanne is the agricultural extension educator for Rice and Steele counties. Reach her at lacanne@umn.edu, or at 507-332-6165 (Rice County) or 507-444-7691 (Steele County).

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