Are you ready for lambing? Read our top tips

06 March 2024

Sarah Batchelor

Sarah Batchelor

NFU Farm Safety and Transport adviser


NFU Farm Safety & Transport adviser Sarah Batchelor and NFU Student and Young Farmer Ambassadors give their top tips on preparing for lambing.

At certain times of the year, such as lambing or calving, farmers need to work longer hours, often into the night with early starts and less chance to take sufficient breaks, and the risk of exhaustion increases.

Whether you lamb inside, or outside, safety needs to be considered:

  • Take care with manual handling, for example with upturning sheep or carrying bags of feed.
  • Take care with administering injections and other animal medications as they can have adverse effects if they enter the human body.
  • While the risk of fatality is lower with sheep compared to other livestock, they are still unpredictable and can result in injuries if, for example, you are kicked or butted.
  • Good hygiene is always important, but is vital during lambing, such as thorough hand washing, especially if you interact with a pregnant person, owing to the increased risk of miscarriage.
  • Work to reduce slips, trips, and falls by keeping barn walkways clear and handling sheep in small, enclosed areas.


Exhaustion can slow the speed at which tasks are able to be completed and may create an environment where mistakes are more likely to be made.

That can result in higher risks of injury or incident, as well as making those working on the farm and affected by exhaustion become less effective and less efficient.

To help manage exhaustion:

  • Eat the right sorts of food to maintain energy levels. Poor diets are associated with poor sleep quality.
  • Take rest breaks whenever possible.
  • Ensure good quality sleep can be had whenever possible.
  • Try not to rush tasks, as mistakes and safety risks can occur.

Get an essentials kit

Sian Grove

NFU Student & Young Farmer Ambassador, South

Sian is a first-generation Shepherdess from the Isle of Wight. She began her farming career through her local young farmers club, and now has her own flock of sheep. 

Sian is looking forward to learning more about UK agriculture, networking, and meeting likeminded young farmers.

Sian’s top tips include:

  • Get an ‘essentials’ kit – iodine, marker spray, castration rings and applicator, feeding tubes, milk replacer, etc. You might not have much time to keep nipping out to the shops, so have it ordered in, ready.
  • Dip the lambs’ navels in iodine to prevent infection.
  • Use lime/disinfectant powder for mothering pens to help keep them clean.
  • If moving a lamb, keep it down low so it is always in the eye line of the ewe, and she will follow. You can also make a ‘baa’ sound to encourage her.
  • 'Kick-start' is always handy for the lambs whoa re a bit slow to get going.
  • Use gloves and Hibi scrub to stop us giving the sheep any infections or getting anything from them.
  • Keep a flash for a warming cuppa.
  • Wear waterproof overalls that can be hosed down and are easy to sanitise.

Don't be afraid to call for help

Edward Harrison

NFU Student & Young Farmer Ambassador, North

Growing up and working on his family dairy farm in North Cumbria gave Edward a passion for agriculture.

Since leaving the family farm, Edward has set up his own small regenerative farm alongside his wife where they specialise in rare and native breeds. Edward is looking forward to embracing all the opportunities the programme has to offer and meeting likeminded people.

Edward’s top tips are:

  • Always call for help if you don't feel sufficiently confident to deal with a lambing dilemma. No one is going to think any less of you if you admit defeat. Vets and friends with experience are always there to help and they would rather get a call than have you lose a lamb or a ewe.
  • When lambing outside, make sure there is enough shelter for all sheep. This helps protect livestock from the elements and can be vitally important for the ewes and any newborn lambs.
  • Always make sure you are stocked up on all lambing supplies well in advance. You don't want to be rushing to the shop for anything or wishing you had got prepared sooner if a problem occurs. Having a full toolkit at your disposal makes things easier for you and your sheep.
  • For best welfare practice when tail docking or castrating lambs with a rubber ring, use a local anaesthetic. This reduces pain and stress on the lamb and helps them to get on with growing and feeding rather than feeling sorry for themselves.

Look after yourself

Sophia Ashe

NFU Student & Young Farmer Ambassador, South

Sophia feels passionately about standing up for farmers and hopes to gain a greater insight into politics through the programme and meeting people along the way!

Not from a farming background, Sophia stumbled into the world of farming. She went to the Royal Agricultural University and has worked on various different farms to gain experience.

Sophia says:

  • Check well beforehand that you have all the equipment; medication, gloves, twin lamb drenches, syringes, blue spray, tags, bands etc. Never hesitate to stock up as what you don't get will inevitably be what you need!
  • If lambing outdoors, try to pick sheltered fields if you can. This gives the ewes and lambs a chance to hide away from bad weather.
  • Always have a space indoors with a pen ready. In the event of an emergency, you can bring the animal straight in without needing to waste time setting up.
  • Thoroughly cleaning out pens and buckets between ewes is time consuming but so important for hygiene and disease prevention. Plenty of straw disinfectant will pay for itself with healthy ewes and lambs.
  • Always put the lid back on! Be it a tub of colostrum or a box of castrator bands. Keep everything as sterile as possible.
  • Work out a system and routine that works, whether working alone or with others. Efficient systems will allow for more time to focus on the stock without rushing around.
  • Look after yourself: when tired, accidents are more likely to happen and you might be more susceptible to losing your temper. This stress will project onto the stock so try to manage time so you can sit, have a drink and something to eat throughout the day.
  • Don't leave anything to chance: if an animal isn't looking right, see to it immediately – even if it's just giving it a cover of antibiotics. They can go downhill very quickly.

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