Sheep Lambing Which Ewe is Next

Welcome to the farm, one ewe has had lambs, several more are close to lambing, how does a keeper know which ewe will lamb next, and what to do?


Sheep can be bred so they have their first lamb when they are one year old. As they have a five month gestation (pregnancy) period, and as most producers want lambs in the spring, which works well as ewes often come into heat in the fall.


The first time a ewe has lambs, a single is preferred. One lamb is easier for the mother to take care of. Twins, or triplets, are preferred after that, but triplets sometimes have problems – a ewe may reject one, or lose track of one, and can even lay on it, in fact killing it (sometimes referred to as “flat lamb” syndrome). If a ewe rejects a lamb, or does not have enough milk for it – it must be bottle raised (cute but expensive).

Any day now….


Signs of Lambing


The first sign of lambing comes a long way off, the ewe gets an udder. Some ewes get much larger udders than others, with some “bagging up” as early as a month before lambing – she will eat more during this time.

Ewes typically stop eating 4-12 hours before lambing, and become restless. They may seek a cozy spot, such as a corner in the barn, or shed. Although not easy to do, one can express milk in the last day or two before lambing, by milking the ewe.

Her vulva will appear to deepen in color, this being easier to notice on a white sheep with pink skin rather than on a colored ewe. It will appear swollen, and “relaxed”.

The ewe will get increasingly restless, often standing up, circling, and laying down again. Eventually the sack that contains the lamb will begin to present itself. This sack contains clear fluid and will break . Normal lamb presentation is one front foot, then another, then the head resting on top. It is not uncommon for this to occur while the ewe is standing. Should everything go correctly the lamb is born in under 30 minutes. The ewe will turn and clean it. If the ewe is having more lambs, they often follow within 30 minutes.


Should you Help?

Be sure the ewe is in a roomy area, there are more problems to be had if she is in a cramped space.

If the lamb is presenting incorrectly you may want to help, but if you do not know what you are doing – you should phone for a veterinarian, who may come out – or talk you through it over the phone. This link is not designed to help in emergency situations such as a breach birth.

If a lamb is not being delivered more than 30 minutes after the sack breaks – the veterinarian should be called. Otherwise you should not assist by pulling the lamb.

If the ewe does not clean the lamb, you may clean off its head, making sure its nostrils are clean and it is breathing. If you are in weather that is below freezing you may take a towel and dry the lamb where it lay. Be sure the ears, tail, and legs get dry as these regions are prone to frost bite. Do not break the umbilical cord.

After all lambs are born, the ewe and lambs should be put into a stall together, the ewe should be given fresh water and hay (no grain for at least 12 hours).

The lambs umbilicals may be dipped in iodine.
Monitor them closely to be sure the ewe is allowing the lambs to drink, and they are getting fed. If a lamb stands hunched over after a few days, this means that lamb is not getting enough to drink and should be supplemented with a bottle.

Any day now…

Authors Note

While most ewes give birth at night, from experience some ewes who are not allowed into a barn at night, may give birth in the day, when some predators are less active, and their approach can be seen.  For safety it is best to bring the ewes in every night starting about two weeks before they are due to lamb.

Related Links

First Lambs of 2010/2011

How to Care for Bottle Baby Lambs

Tail Docking in Sheep

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14 Responses to “Sheep Lambing Which Ewe is Next”
  1. clay hurtubise Says...

    On January 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    EWE! Great post.
    Sorry, that was baaaaaad! :)

  2. Anuradha Ramkumar Says...

    On January 3, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Very detailed, Brenda. I’m always amazed by your knowledge on animals.

  3. Geny Says...

    On January 4, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Thanks for sharing

  4. Geny Says...

    On January 4, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Thanks for sharing..

  5. PSingh1990 Says...

    On January 4, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Nice Share.


  6. martie Says...

    On January 4, 2011 at 11:11 am

    I have never seen a ewe give birth, but, I have seen baby goats born. It is an awesome experience. Thanks for the informative article.

  7. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On January 4, 2011 at 11:57 am

    I know nothing about sheep, but your information was interesting.

  8. Val Mills Says...

    On January 5, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Enjoyed this. I lived on a sheep farm for a year when teaching down south and for a city girl that was an incredible experience. Lambing starts in July here in NZ.

  9. Khairul Azwan Says...

    On January 5, 2011 at 2:51 am

    informative one

  10. BruceW Says...

    On January 5, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Very informative. Despite being brought up in the countryside it was in a mostly arable area and I know very little about livestock. One thing struck me, though – that dreadful euphamism “flat lamb syndrome”, a very clinical phrase for what is a horrible thing to happen.

  11. albert1jemi Says...

    On January 5, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing

  12. PR Mace Says...

    On January 5, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks for the educational information on lambing. I must admit I know nothing about the subject.

  13. Brenda Nelson Says...

    On January 12, 2011 at 12:33 am

    On Jan 6 we had more lambs – read here to see who..

  14. gigi Says...

    On February 7, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Thankyou so much, this is going to be my fir experience with a sheep giving birth ^_^ im so happy and i hope i do my best on it

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