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Dr. tatiana Luisa Stanton Cornell University Goat Extension Program with contributions from Dr. Richard E. Ehrhardt, Sandy VonAllmen, Kirby Selkirk, Natasha Pellifor & numerous NY farmers. Northeast Lambing/Kidding Project. First …. WHY?.

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northeast lambing kidding project

Dr. tatiana Luisa Stanton

Cornell University Goat Extension Program

with contributions from Dr. Richard E. Ehrhardt, Sandy VonAllmen, Kirby Selkirk, Natasha Pellifor & numerous NY farmers

Northeast Lambing/KiddingProject

Labor demands and feed requirements at birthing are cited by sheep and goat farmers as a major reason for why they do not expand or why they consider retirement

Can we reduce labor inputs and feed costs at lambing/kidding without adversely affecting kid and lamb mortality and herd productivity?
how much does labor affect kid lamb mortality
How much does labor affect kid/lamb mortality?
  • In Winter ’09 – some of our case study farms worked an extra 12 to 15 hrs/day during birthing as compared to as low as 2 hrs/day for other farms with similar herd sizes, productivity and mortality rates
neonatal mortality is greatly affected by
Neonatal mortality is greatly affected by:
  • Your herd’s preventative health management program
  • Your herd’s nutritional program
  • How adequate your facilities are for the season of the year your animals give birth in
  • Litter size and season of birthing
  • Luck – and being able to find a quick fix

Outbreaks of disease or metabolic disorders can contribute substantially to neonatal mortality regardless of how much labor you put into the birthing season

ways to keep labor and operating costs down
Ways to keep labor and operating costs down
  • Winter/Early Spring
  • Late Spring/Summer
  • Fall
birthing checks
Birthing checks
  • Are you on the farm a lot?
  • Are the animals in easy view?
  • Are your facilities adequate for the season?
  • Have you culled does/ewes with dystocia problems?
  • Have you addressed management problems that led to dystocia or weak newborns?
  • Heat?
  • Safety
  • Type
  • Cost
  • Ventilation
juggling sheep goats around
“Juggling” sheep/goats around
  • What is your animal flow from Birthing 
  • Jugs? 
  • Mother/offspring areas
grafting newborns is it an option

Grafting newborns - Is it an option?

When successful –

Greatly reduces or even eliminates need for artificial rearing

Improves animal performance and ultimate welfare

Reduces labor inputs during birth period


Grafting Protocol Overview

  • Must be very aware of livestock needs and opportunities.
  • Using techniques that concentrate birth period (i.e. ram/buck effect, concentrated male to female ratio) will allow more matching opportunities.
  • Assess these variables in making match
    • Milk supply
    • Milk requirement
    • Maternal bond
    • Newborn suckling drive

Grafting Protocol

  • Maintain graftee “natural” suckling drive by stomach tube feeding (24-48 h limit)
  • Maternal bond develops quickly (less than 5 min) but this is highly variable-need to assess each situation
  • Assess milk supply and use this info to determine which newborns to remove and which graftees to bring.
  • Possible to swap or mix entire litters if done before bonding is set.
  • Possible to graft in pasture birth.



Techniques to facilitate bonding

  • Simulate birth process with hand in birth canal (use plastic ob sleeve).
  • Place fetal fluids from maternal litter on graftee.
  • When grafting into established litters or refining matches, place newborn feces from maternal litter on graftee.
  • Use head gate or halter to restrain mother if bonding is already established. Grafting success will be apparent within 48 h.

Warming box:

  • Forced air heating (inexpensive electric heater)
  • Compartments
  • Wire mesh flooring