Batching ewes

Scanning is possibly the most valuable task undertaken in the sheep farmer’s calendar, as it will determine the success of the breeding season and allow for batching of ewes depending on litter size. Litter size should not be the determining factor, as thinner ewes may need to be upgraded to the next pen, eg a thin, twin-bearing ewe, housed with triplet ewes. Where flocks don’t practice winter shearing, it can be harder to assess body condition by eye, therefore, it is important to routinely walk through pens and check ewes for body condition by handling. Ewes should be housed in pens of less than 30, as higher numbers can lead to a high incidence of mismothering come lambing time.

Colostrum management

For newborn lambs, colostrum is the primary source of immunity from infections and diseases and is the first defence in protecting against scour and watery mouth. Where there are issues with poor-quality colostrum, or a low volume, then these issues should be addressed by supplementing the ewe with a high-quality source of protein (such as soya bean meal in ration/nuts) on the run up to lambing. As a rule of thumb, lambs should receive 50ml/kg bodyweight of colostrum every six hours in the first 24 hours. Extra colostrum should be stored in sealed Ziploc or special colostrum bags for ease of defrosting. Never defrost colostrum in a microwave, as it will kill the essential antibodies contained within. Powdered colostrum can act as a supplement and the aim is for each lamb to receive some ewe colostrum.

For indoor-lambing flocks there should be a lambing pen for every 10 ewes, while highly prolific or compact flocks should have a pen for every seven to 10 ewes.

Lambing facilities

Lambing facilities will depend very much on the system being run. Outdoor lambing flocks will require very little housing post-lambing, with it only being used for sick or triplet lambs, while highly prolific flocks may need a good deal of lambing pens and larger group pens. Compact lambing flocks should have individual lambing pens for every 10 ewes, while flocks with a large number of triplets that will require cross-fostering may need pens for every seven to 10 ewes. Hay racks should be used to prevent waste by throwing hay/silage on the ground. Where buckets are used to water sheep, a water source should be located close by and buckets should be elevated from the ground to prevent lambs drowning in them. Pens should be disinfected after every ewe and bedded with fresh bedding and be cleaned out fully after every second ewe, at a minimum, and ideally after every ewe.


For flocks practicing tagging at lambing, data-recording can be done through various apps. Those who refrain from doing so, can use other methods as an aid to identifying problem ewes and potential replacements. Ewes can be identified for culling through using coloured identification tags where they have mastitis, poor milk yield or where they reject their lambs. Red tags are the most common and can be used for these ‘red card’ offences.

To identify ewe lambs for replacements that come from litters of twins or triplets and from mothers with good mothering ability and milk yield, a small ear notch can be used to identify the lamb at weaning time.


While current ground conditions may not allow it, an early turnout to grass is of huge benefit both financially and from a labour point of view. When a flock is over halfway through lambing, pressure can come on housing from a space and disease point of view. Dry, sheltered paddocks close to the yard should be utilised for an early turnout, even if it is by day. Ewes can be supplemented with concentrates at grass to ensure they have adequate energy intake and protection against grass tetany. Early grazing will also reduce the use of straw and forages, all the while setting up the grazing block for the coming year.