GENERAL INFORMATION AND TIPS FOR
(For lambing Problems see the link at the bottom of the page)
© Kathy Baker Oct 01 2005
Good mothering ability is a characteristic of a good Shetland
ewe. Twins are quite common for Shetland ewes. Singles or triplets
are also seen. Very
occasionally, natural quadruplets are produced. Only very
growthy ewe lambs should be considered for breeding the first fall. Bear in mind that ewe lambs are not finished growing
themselves. Some feel that bred ewe lambs may not reach their full
growth potential so future productivity may be compromised.
While ewe lambs usually prove to be good mothers, lambing out ewe
lambs requires a bit more vigilance and skill. If you are a new shepherd you may want to
begin lambing with experienced ewes.
The average Shetland lamb weighs 4-7 lbs at birth.
Singles tend to be larger. Twins and triplets may be smaller
The total weight of all lambs in the litter is commonly 10-15 lbs
The largest Shetland lamb I am aware of weighed 11 lbs as a single.
The smallest Shetland lamb I've known to survive, with some help,
was 2 lbs.
The gestation period for Shetland ewes is typically 145-147
For a quick lambing start date estimate, take your first date of ram
add 5 months then subtract 5 days.
Rams in 10 November
Add 5 months which brings you to 10 April
Subtract 5 days
Expect lambing to begin 5 April
Be sure to record the days you put the rams in and when you
removed them. Also note carefully in your calendar any accidental
exposures of ewes to rams. If a ram should get in with your ewes
early, chances are a ewe or two will have been bred and will lamb
early. Make a second note to repair or change your pens to avoid
this mishap in the future.
Be prepared for lambs a few days prior to the earliest expected
date. The more ewes you have to lamb, the better prepared you
-See Lambing Supply List link below and stock up
-Buy straw, feed, mineral, salt
-Get your recording system set up
-Clean out your pens and shelters
-Put down fresh straw in protected places if lambing outside
-Clean out your barn
-Set up your jugs
Successful lambing depends largely on the management of your
ewes before lambing.
Ewes need free choice access to salt and fresh mineral mix
suited to your area.
Ewes should not be too thin. They need good
nutrition to grow healthy lambs and to stay healthy and grow a good fleece as well
as good lambs. See
Ewes should not be too fat. Over conditioned
ewes are more likely to run into problems delivering their lambs.
Don’t over feed the ewes in the last 3 weeks or so of pregnancy as
the lambs can get too large. This again can create more
difficulty in delivery. This puts the health of the lamb and
ewe at risk. See
A sensible feeding program that takes into account the
nutritional requirements of the ewe at various stages of gestation,
lactation, maintenance and flushing is needed. You need to know the
quality of your feed and how much to feed. Remember that as the
lambs take up more space inside the ewe, there is less space for
food in the rumen. As pregnancy progresses, the ewe may
benefit from more frequent feedings and or higher quality feed to get the nutrition she needs. See Feed
for further discussion.
Pregnant ewes need lots of exercise. A strong, healthy
ewe will deliver lambs without undue stress and will be active in
mothering the lambs right after delivery. As much as your farm
property will allow, get your ewes out walking all year long,
especially when they are pregnant. Consider placing feed as far away
from the water and shelter as you can.
On the Shetland Islands and on mainland UK, it is common to
shear the ewes after lambing. The advantages are that the ewe
retains protection from the elements. The lambs can snuggle
into the fleece for warmth. The fleece is well risen and the
sheep can be rooed or hand clipped more easily at that time.
In North America it is more commonplace to shear the ewes about
one month before lambing. Occasionally the stress of shearing
will cause a ewe to deliver her lambs prematurely so it is best to
handle ewes gently and not shear too close to lambing dates.
3- 4 weeks prior to lambing is good. It is easier for the shepherd to observe the udder and the birth
process when the ewe is shorn. It is thought to be easier for
the lamb to find the teat to nurse. Shearing before lambing
means that the fleece remains cleaner.
Another option is to ‘crutch’ the ewes. This means clipping
only the wool from the udder and around the hind end.
Vaccinations and Worming
Discuss a plan with your vet. Local worm and disease
populations do vary.
Vaccination of ewes 4 weeks before lambing ensures that lambs are
protected through the colostrum or first milk they receive from the
ewe. If you are shearing ewes before lambing you can vaccinate and
trim hooves at that time.
Consider worming your ewes at lambing time. There is a natural rise in
worm load in the ewe at lambing as more eggs are laid with the onset
of warm weather. This is known as the periparturient rise. Keeping the lambing area free of worms will
help keep your lambs healthy and growing well. You can worm
the ewes before or after lambing. If using jugs for lambing, worm the ewe in the jug or as she leaves
the barn with her lambs.