Say Hello to the Lambs of 2016!

March 1, 2016

A little snow couldn’t keep AGNR’s ewes from having their lambs earlier this month!

Since Monday, February 8, thirteen ram lambs and fifteen ewe lambs have been born; ushered into the world by Campus Farm Manager Crystal Caldwell and the 32 students of ANSC235, Applied Small Ruminant Parturition.\

Also known as “Lamb Watch,” ANSC235’s lab sections are broken up into eight different watch groups and are assigned shifts during which they must report to the campus farm at 10 p.m. and perform a variety of activities including feeding, checking for lambing, re-bedding and checking water. Pairs of student are even assigned their own ewe, and are therefore coined “lamb parents.”

“The first two labs of the course are spent teaching students how to do the watch shifts and teaching them how to bottle feed,” Caldwell explained. “Once the ewes start lambing, students may get a call at any time of day or night letting them know that their ewe is in labor.”

Once a pair’s ewe has had their lamb, the students complete a physical exam of their lamb(s) and ewe every day during its first week of life, on day 35 and then on day 50.

“Lambs are a nice, small animal that are great to introduce animal science students to,” Caldwell said. “Lambs typically weigh between 6-11 pounds and the ewes are much more easy to work with than cattle, for example. The sheep we have been working with, Katahdin Hair Sheep, are especially fun to work with because you never know what you’re going to get coming out and the best part is that they’re good at living!"

The ewes are bred during the fall semester with a five-month gestation period eventually leading to an exciting start to the spring semester. While a few ewe lambs and perhaps one ram lamb will be kept to breed here, the other ewe lambs will be sold for breeding at other farms.  Occasionally ram lambs are sold for breeding but most are purchased by Dining Services on campus. 

“Students take part in six labs total, the later labs consisting of lamb and ewe management techniques: hoof trimming, de-worming, wound checks and treatment, weight and body condition monitoring and finally weaning the lamb from its mother,” Caldwell elaborated.

“The benefit of this course is that while students definitely learn about the care and management of sheep, they also learn how to do all the physical lab work,” Caldwell went on. “If they went out to work on a farm or even had a farm of their own, they would know how to do a physical exam right away having already done this so many times. Those headed to labs rather than farms have learned great record keeping and instruction-following skills considering all the physical exams that have been documented.”

Two more ewes are expected between now and March 10, just in time to turn the spotlight over to this year’s foals!