During the spring, many people will notice an increase in births and baby animals across their farms. Since you now know some signs to look for when preparing for these births, it’s now time to prepare yourself for when the babies have arrived.
Start small and grow your numbers
If you’re new to farming or just starting out with raising animals, it can be easy to get caught up in the number and kind of animals you want to raise. Often times, people just starting out get excited about the idea of having new animals and want to have a little bit of everything. However, it’s best to start out with a small number of animals all from the same species. Mixing goats and sheep or chickens and ducks can create more problems for you in the beginning. Starting out with one type of animal will help you learn the basics, and then you’ll eventually be ready to grow in number or species.
Always be prepared
Operating a farm is difficult. Just when you think you are prepared for any situation, things can go in a direction that you had not planned. The best way to combat these problems is to be proactive and make a list of possible scenarios you might encounter. Your list might not be complete with every possible situation you could run into, but at least you can be as prepared as possible. Once you have an idea of the main problems you could face, you need to figure out the best solutions to remedy these issues. Figure out what items you have around the farm that can help fix these issues or serve as multipurpose tools across the farm. Having the essentials and some extras will help you be a great caregiver to your animals.
Here are some examples of scenarios to start your own list:
- Do I have the proper shelter and how well is the shelter going to fit all the animals?
- What kind of predators can hurt my animals and will my shelter protect them from those predators?
- What different kinds of feed do I need to have available at different times of the year?
- Can I afford the maintenance and feed required by the number of animals I own?
Don't assume anything
If you are new to having animals, read and learn as much as you can. It is important that you don't assume anything. An animal’s behavior could surprise you, and all animals are different. Baby chicks can fly higher than you’d think, cows can be very curious, pigs like to dig, and sheep and goats are known for getting into all kinds of things. Keep an eye on what your animals are up to and watch for any potential dangers to them or yourself.
Let the mom do her mom thing
When breeding/birthing animals, it is easy to get very involved and concerned with your animals. But it is important to step back and let the mom do her thing. This is how animals have survived for so many years. A mother’s instincts are instilled in her and it comes out when she has young. For the most part, this is the time when the mother and baby bond and figure out what they need to do. But you also need to know when to step in if there seems to be a problem. Keep a close eye on them so you know when to intervene when necessary, but give them space to be mommy and baby until then.
This might seem silly, but animals need to get to know you and be able to trust you. Talk to them or sing while you are in the pen; let them get to know your voice. Get them used to your touch; show them you only do good things to them. This will help tremendously when you need to handle them or care for them in the future.
Also, pay attention to your animals’ mannerisms. Take the time to see how they react to different situations and how they act around each other. This will help you realize when something might be wrong. Since they cannot talk to you and tell you they are not feeling well or if they are hurt, it is your job to watch for different signs and look into why they are acting differently. When in doubt, always check over your animals and even take their temperature.
Have colostrum on hand
Birthing animals does not always happen the way you would like. Sometimes you might need to bottle feed the baby. In these cases it is helpful to have frozen colostrum saved up from a healthy mom to give to these bottle babies to get them the antibodies they need.
Freezing colostrum enables you to save it throughout the birthing session. Some people prefer to freeze it in ice cube trays so that little bits can be heated up at a time. Others prefer to freeze it in individual bags per feeding size. However you freeze it, make sure you heat it up slowly in warm water; do not microwave or boil it. This will kill the much needed antibodies that are in the milk.
Keep your animals healthy
Prevention is always key to keeping your animals healthy. This means proper vaccinations if needed or quarantine of sick animals to keep an illness from spreading to others. Watch your animals to see if any are showing signs of a runny nose or a cough. If you keep your barn clean and well ventilated, this will cut down on sickness as well. No one wants huge vet bills, so be proactive in caring for your animals.
If you’re new to raising animals or run into a new situation on your farm, talk to your neighbors and others in the community to see what they treat for and what they watch out for. Learn through others’ experiences to keep your animals from going through the stress of you learning the same lessons that someone else learned.
There is a huge community of farmers out there who are happy to help and talk about their animals and what has and has not worked for them. Don't be afraid to reach out and see what you can learn from others. Spring is here and everyone is in the same situation. Reach out and learn!