Your flock’s birthing season is a pivotal time requiring anticipation, preparedness, and hands-on know-how. From the first signs of labor to the health and welfare of your newborn lambs and kids, understanding the birthing process is especially important. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into every detail, equipping you with the expertise to navigate lambing and kidding with confidence, ensuring the health and vitality of your livestock.


Preparing for Lambing and Kidding


Set the Stage for Success

Creating a conducive birthing environment sets the foundation for a successful lambing and kidding season. Clean, dry, and warm jugs, devoid of any lingering traces of previous births, are essential. Proactive measures such as the administration of CD/T vaccines a month before the expected due date can bolster the immunity of the dams and their forthcoming offspring, and an intimate agricultural partnership with your veterinarian ensures support during critical times.



Nursery Essentials

Gathering the right supplies is akin to creating an emergency kit for a new arrival. Remember, your veterinarian’s contact information is as crucial as any tool in your preparedness kit.

Supplies to have on hand:

  • Gloves and OB sleeves
  • OB lubricants
  • 7% iodine solution or Chlorhexidine solution
  • Clean Towels
  • Umbilical tape (string) or clamps
  • Calcium and magnesium oral supplements
  • Discuss with your veterinarian which are most appropriate for your operation.

Reminder: Many of these items are available in our Online Store



Understanding the Lambing and Kidding Process


Stage 1: Onset of Labor (2-6 hours)

Recognizing the subtle signals of stage one labor, from restlessness to mucous discharge, hints toward the imminent arrival of your new stock. During this preparatory stage, the dam’s body is diligently paving the way for her offspring’s entrance, and observing these cues is your queue to action.

The signs of stage one preparation are:

  • Restlessness
  • Raising her tail
  • Separating herself from the herd/flock, if she can
  • Mucous discharge
  • Mild straining
  • Fetal membranes, or the water bag.

During this time the cervix is dilating, and the neonate is rotating from its position in pregnancy to facing forward with its head at 12 o’clock resting between its front legs. Any other position or presentation is not normal.


Stage 2: Act of Birth (30 minutes – 1 hour)

The expulsion stage is a ballet of contractions and maternal instincts. Vigilance is key as you monitor your dam, ensuring progress is steady. In the rare event of a stall, a gentle and informed hand can guide the lamb or kid to safety, often with the humble act of repositioning or a timely call to your veterinary ally.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • At this time the walls of the uterus are contracting more frequently and with more force. You will see feet protruding from the vulva.
  • Check on dam every 20 minutes to make sure she is progressing normally. If you are not seeing progress every 20 mins, you should perform a vaginal exam, using the clean procedure, to identify whether the neonate is in the correct position.
  • Remember: that if you are pulling a lamb or kid, you should always have two feet and a head through the cervix or two feet and a tail before you pull. Otherwise, don’t pull before you reposition the lamb or kid in a normal presentation, or call your vet for help or advice.
  • Pro Tip: After the lamb or kid is removed, glove up and check for another. You will miss everyone you don’t check for!


Stage 3: Cleaning (8-12 hours)

The final stage is the quieter one, as the placenta passes and the dam’s body undergoes critical postpartum processes. Observing the speed and completeness of this stage provides important insights into both the dam and her newborn’s health.


Healthy Beginnings

Ensuring the well-being of your newborns against common diseases and nutritional deficits is a cornerstone of early-life management. Recognizing symptoms, administering timely care, and maintaining a meticulously clean environment are pillars in your arsenal.



Lambs and Kids should be born in an environment that is clean, dry, and warm

Lambs and kids born into a wet, dirty environment will likely develop scours and pneumonia within the first week of life. Do not forget that they are infants and have no immune system when they first hit the ground.

Using a kidding or lambing jug will ensure that the dams bond with their offspring, aids in regular nursing by keeping the damns and their young in close proximity, and the small enclosure will retain heat  to keep the neonates warm.


Assess the Lamb or Kid Immediately at Birth

Assess the neonate when it has been completely delivered. Check to make sure it is breathing, if not, stick fingers in the nostrils and rub the back of the neck. Make sure the umbilicus is not still bleeding. If it is, tie it off with string, use an umbilical clamp, or hold it off with your fingers for a minute to get it to stop.


Keep Them Warm

Lambs and kids are not able to regulate their body temperatures when they are first born and will very easily become hypothermic. To prevent hypothermia in lambs and kids you should:

  • Dry them off rapidly. Use clean towels to rub them until they are completely dry.
  • Feed colostrum as soon as possible
  • Provide a deep, dry, clean bed pack of straw and a heat lamp in the corner of the birth jug. A source of heat should be provided for the first 3-7 days while dam and offspring are in the birth jugs. In temperatures below 40 degrees F, heat sources should be provided for lambs and kids for the first 2-3 weeks of life within the larger bed packs.



Lambs and kids should be fed 2-4 ounces of warm colostrum by 4 hours after birth. The sooner the lamb or kid is fed the better. If the neonate is not willing to drink on its own, use an esophageal tube feeder to force feed colostrum.

The lamb or kid should receive at least 2 ounces of warm colostrum during a second feeding around 8-12 hours after birth. By this time, the lamb or kid should be nursing from the dam on its own. If it is not nursing on its own, feed with a bottle or esophageal tube feeder.

Remember: the antibodies in the colostrum are no longer available to the calf 24 hours after birth. Feeding colostrum to the lamb or kid after the first 24 hours of life will have no effect on immune function.


Navel Care

The umbilical cord on the lamb or kid should be attended to within the first 30 mins of life.

  • Cord length
    • If the cord is longer than 4”, tear the extra length with gloved hands OR tie off with string then cut the extra length off below the tie.
    • DO NOT CUT with out tying off first
    • If the cord is bleeding
    • Use string, an umbilical clamp, or your fingers to hold off until bleeding stops
    • Make sure whatever you are using is clean
    • Dip the navel in 7% iodine solution or chlorohexidine solution
    • Fill a cup with solution and submerge the entire navel up to the belly for 15 seconds
    • Make sure to cover the entire cord and navel
    • Repeat every 12 hours for 2 days
    • Monitor navel for signs of swelling, discharge, heat, or bleeding
    • If any of these signs occur, contact your vet for advice


Ewe or Doe Care After Birthing

  • Ensure that the dam is alert, responsive, and attentive to her offspring.
  • Provide her with clean warm water and fresh hay
  • Strip both sides of udder to ensure both teats are patent, and colostrum appears normal.
  • Examine for signs of excessive bleeding, weakness when standing or inability to stand on her own, retained cleanings, lethargy, or inappetence.
  • Work with your veterinary team to develop protocols for any of the above conditions.


When To Call the Vet

  • If stage 1 is taking longer than 6 hours or if the dam is not progressing every 20 minutes in stage 2
  • If you feel the lamb or kid is malpositioned and are not sure how to correct it, or if you have attempted to correct a malpositioned lamb or kid without success for over 20 minutes.
  • If the lamb or kid is not attempting to stand or nurse within 3 hours of birth
  • If the dam is showing any of the signs listed above or not responding to treatment
  • If the dam has retained cleanings for more than 3 days
  • DO NOT attempt to pull cleanings on your own without consulting your veterinarian.

CDT Vaccinations

2ml of a CD/T vaccination should be administered to lambs and kids at:

  • 1 week of age
  • 4 weeks of age
  • 3 months of age
  • 4 months of age

Disbudding Kids

Dehorning of kids should occur between 5-10 days of age. Disbudding after 14 days of age greatly increases the likely hood of scur formation. Make sure to schedule disbudding with your veterinary team ASAP after the kids are born.


In lambs or kids being processed for meat by 6 months of age, castration is not necessary.

For lambs or kids being raised for companionship, it is recommended that castration be performed between 4-6 months of age to reduce the risk of urinary calculi obstruction in the future. Please refer to your veterinary team or our website for more information on this topic.



Best Practices for Lambing and Kidding


The Art of Record-Keeping

Documentation is a shepherd’s compass, guiding the trajectory of each life within your flock. Detailed records of births, complications, and health events are invaluable for informed decision-making and future planning.


Proactive Health Management

From vaccination routines to genetic considerations, a proactive approach to health management can avert numerous challenges. Breeding and genetics, when harnessed carefully, pave a path toward a robust and resilient lineage within your flock.



Common Challenges and Solutions


Embracing the Unknown

Lambing and kidding carry inherent risks, and being prepared for complications is non-negotiable. Familiarizing yourself with potential issues gives you a strategic upper hand. Prevention strategies, vigilance, and a contingency plan that includes your veterinarian are your best companions in navigating uncertainty.


Other Management Protocols to Consider

All sheep and goat operations are different. Because of this, common practices are not going to look the same from farm to farm. Consult with your veterinary team to develop management protocols that best reflect the goals and health needs of your flock or herd. Additionally, our website has several resources from experts in the field regarding the following topics:

  • Lamb and Kid Nutrition

    • Milk feeding and Grain feeding
    • Creeping feeding and Weaning
  • Ewe and Doe Nutrition and Body Condition Scoring
  • Ewe and Doe Vaccinations and Parasite Control
  • Ewe and Doe breeding and replacement selection
  • Ram and Buck Selection and management

Best of luck in your lambing and kidding season; may your diligence and preparation ensure the health and vitality of your flock or herd. Should you encounter any challenges or have further questions, remember that Tri-State Veterinary Services is always here to provide expert assistance and support.