Tales From A Vet Student: Going Lambing
I hopped onto the back of the quad bike, bright and early at 6am, off to lamb my very first ewe (female sheep)! Mornings were always the coldest, and the wind felt like pin pricks as we drove around, but I was too excited to care. Bec (one of the staff) tipped the mother and was holding her down while I quickly rolled up my sleeve and put on my long glove. My nerves began kicking in as I tried to remember important points from our lectures – How do we know if it’s backwards? What do we need to feel for? What needs to come out first?
As I pulled gently on the forelimbs, a nose started peeking out, then the ears, rest of the head, and before I knew it a slimy lamb had popped out onto the field, shortly followed by another one! They quickly started trying to walk on their unstable legs, taking their first steps, and I remember having the biggest smile on my face.
By the time the two weeks were up, I had lost count of how many lambs I had delivered. Some were coming out backwards (hindlimbs first), others all tangled up with their sibling, some were quick and easy, while others took over an hour to lamb. One of my favourites was the time I had encountered quadruplets! Although it was meant to be three, I discovered a fourth little lamb hiding at the very back when I did my last check while lambing the ewe. Almost missed the little guy!
The breed of sheep we were working with are known to be good mothers which comes in very handy, however, taking care of the lambs was still handful. Giving them an iodine spray around their navel and umbilical cord to prevent infection, making sure they were given colostrum (first milk from the mother), getting them to suckle or bottle feeding them, castrations, keeping an eye out for ones that looked unwell and giving any medications. Taking care of the lambs was hands down one of the most tedious and exhausting parts of the farm.
Alongside lambing, we also assessed lameness of the sheep. We would try to catch any that we thought were limping, not walking on a certain limb, etc. and then would look at their hooves to decide if medications/sprays were needed.
There were also the day-to-day jobs that are done on a sheep farm, like check-ups of the fields, mucking out, feeding, cleaning, etc. As the days went on, I learned that I should always keep myself busy. You will learn more, feel involved, and the staff really appreciate it as well.
I speak from personal experience when I say that being a small person on a farm is not easy! Getting over the pens was tough let alone tackling sheep that were almost the same size as me. Thankfully I picked up on a few tricks overtime. For example, when you’ve finally gotten hold of a sheep, the best way to ensure they don’t run off again is by holding them
by their lower jaw, specifically at the very back. That area is the diastema, which is a gap between teeth, meaning no biting and you could remain in control.
My lambing placement was definitely one of my favourites and I would happily do it again. It was amazing to see all the content from our lectures come to life as we worked, and even though it’s easy to get bogged down, exhausted, or feel self-conscious and uncomfortable in the new environment, you’re guaranteed to notice how much you’ve progressed at the end.
Written by: Jasmine Kanwar
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