This fact sheet was developed by students enrolled in Purdue's ANSC 442 Sheep Management course in Spring 2001, as a semester project. These fact sheets provide useful information on various topics related to sheep. View the list of fact sheets.

Care of the Newborn Lamb

      The first step in caring for the newborn lamb is to make sure it is placed in a warm, protected environment immediately after birth.  The most common way to do this is to provide a post-lambing room.

The Post Lambing Room

Placing newborn lambs in an area that is at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit is critical.  Newborn lambs have very little fat on their bodies, therefore making them extremely susceptible to hypothermia.  If one is expecting their ewes to lamb overnight when she is going to be alone and the temperature outside is less than 40 degrees, it is advisable to place her in a pen inside.  

After the lamb is born, the perfect post-lambing room would be:

  1.     Warm, clean and dry
  2.      40 - 60 degrees 
  3.     Have individual pens that are 5' * 5' or 6' * 4'
  4.     Each pen should contain clean, dry  bedding and a bucket of fresh, clean water   

 The following photos are examples of an efficient post-lambing room at Purdue University:


Procedures to follow after the lamb and ewe are comfortably in the post-lambing room:

    It is important to observe the ewe's behavior to ensure that she is licking the lamb and letting it nurse.  It is also important to check the ewes for mastitis and remove excess wool from around the udder.  Milking each teat will remove the wax plug if necessary to assist the lamb in nursing.  Only confine the ewe and lamb for a maximum of 36 hours because it has been proven that ewes do not milk well in confinement.  

    Immediately after the lamb is born, it is critical that the lamb nurse to make sure it receives the first milk from the mother known as the colostrum.  The lamb must receive this milk within the first 12 hours after birth.  Colostrum is rich in maternal antibodies, proteins, vitamin E and A and contains a concentrate form of energy  that are all passively transmitted to the lamb.  The lamb should receive approximately 5% of it's birth weight in a 12 hour period. If a ewe gives birth to only one lamb, it is a common practice to make sure the lamb receives the amount of the colostrum it needs, then strip the teat for the excess colostrum and freeze it for a lamb that may need it in the future.

Record Keeping

Good record keeping is critical to efficient and successful management.  The following information will allow a farmer to make proper herd adjustments to maximize future production:

  1. Note if the ewe had birthing difficulty, and if she was helped and how
  2. Note the ewes maternal behavior
  3. Note the number of lambs born and number alive
  4. Note the color and weight  of the lambs
  5. Note any apparent abnormalities

Disinfecting the Navel

The navel of a newborn lamb is a perfect route for infectious agents to enter the lamb causing severe problems.  To avoid infections, the navel should be disinfected soon after the lamb in born.  This can be done by spraying or dipping the navel into a 2% iodine solution.


Docking Tails

Tail docking is performed to help control flies and to eliminate filth around the tail.  Tails should be docked before the lamb in seven days old.  There are several methods that can be used to dock tails such as:

    Elastrator Bands

            This method obstructs blood flow to the tail using a heavy rubber band.  In a couple of weeks the tail will fall off.  This is the most common and least stressful method to dock and castrate young lambs.

    Crush and Cut Device

            In this method the tail is crushed at the point it is to be docked interrupting the blood supply to the tail.  Then the tail can be cut off with less bleeding.

    Elastrator Bands plus Crushing Device

                This method is usually used for lambs that have larger tails and reduces the risk of swelling around the elastrator band.  In this method, the tail is crushed  with the crushing tool and then an elastrator band is put on the tail in the severed area, and is usually left on for about three days after which the tail can be removed.

    Electric or Gas Heated Docker


It is important the tail be kept long enough to cover the anus of the ram and the vulva of the ewe.  To achieve this tail length, remove the tail at the joint of the tail bone just above the web on the underside on the tail.


Castration is when the testicles, epididymides, and a portion of each spermatic cord are removed making the male sterile.  Lambs should be castrated by two weeks of age.  There are three main methods of castration which are:

    Elastrator Bands

            Similar to tail docking, a heavy rubber band is placed around the scrotum obstructing the blood flow to the testicles and scrotum.  It is very important to make sure both testicles are placed through the rubber band.  In a couple of weeks the scrotum will fall off.

    Crushing of the spermatic cord

            This method is also similar to tail docking.  Blood vessels traveling to the testicles are crushed causing and interruption in the blood supply.  Without the blood supply, tissues eventually atrophy even though the scrotum will be visible for the animals life time.  For this method to work properly, it is important to make sure that both spermatic cords are sufficiently crushed. 

    Cut and Pull

            This is the most reliable method since the testicles are actually cut out and therefore removed from the scrotum completely.  It should be noted that before cutting the spermatic cord, the testicles should be pulled sharply.  This will damage the vessels in the spermatic cord supplying blood to the testicle, leading to less bleeding when the cut is made.


Vaccinations & Dewormers

    It is very essential to properly vaccinate the flock to achieve healthy and profitable sheep.  The vaccinations that are given to sheep are very easy to do and usually take very little time.  The first vaccination that is critical to the ewe is the overeating vaccine.

    Clostridium Perfringens Type C, D and T is a very inexpensive vaccine, but one that is essential to maintaining a healthy flock.  This vaccination is also referred to as the overeating vaccine, and also serves as a tetanus booster.  This shot is only required once a year for the ewes after they have been started on the vaccination program.  Most generally the best time to give this shot is about six weeks before the ewe flock is due to start lambing.  This also gives the unborn lamb passive immunity.  The lambs  should receive their first vaccination around three to six weeks of age and definitely before they are started onto creep feed.  The next overeating shot should be given twenty one days after the first shot to act as a booster.  The overeating shot should be given subcutaneously, and the easiest place to give the shot is under the front leg, as shown in the picture below on the right.  This dosage for this vaccine is 2 cc.  One bottle will vaccinate fifty head.


Another important thing  to do while the ewes are in the lambing room or before you turn them out onto pasture with their lambs is to deworm them.  This can be done several ways and by using several dewormers.  It is important to remember that certain dewormers work better on certain parasites.  Also their is sometimes restrictions for certain dewormers such as you should not deworm pregnant ewes with some dewormers.  Some common anthelmintics to use for sheep are Panacur, Tramisol, Ivermectin, and Valbazen.  Valbazen is one dewormer that should not be given to pregnant ewes.  Some ways that can be used to administer dewormers are:  Drenching which is done orally, injections, and in the feed.  Young lambs should first be dewormed at about six to eight weeks of age, and then on a regular interval afterwards.  The dosage requirements are different for each de wormer and are usually weight based dosages.  So it is important to always read and follow the labeled directions on the bottle.  These ewes below are being ran through a corral to make handling and de worming much easier.  These ewes are being dewormed using the drenching method with Valbazen oral de wormer.  Valbazen should only be given to open ewes, and quit being administered at least six weeks before the start of breeding season to prevent the ewes from possible abortions.


    There is one other shot that can be administered to young sheep, but depends on location and specific management decisions made by each producer.  This would be a Selenium, or Bo-Se shot.  In  the Midwest we are in a Selenium deficient area.  This is a shot that can have adverse side affects if given in excess so it is important to not give too much.  However,  at the same time Selenium is important to prevent things such as white muscle disease.  Therefore it is essential that sheep get it, either in a shot form or in the feed.  Usually one shot per year is sufficient.  The first time a lamb receives it is at about eight weeks of age.

     This website was created for Animal Sciences 442, Sheep Management

By:  Laura Richey, Melinda Roemke and Jason Shuck