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…
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.
If you have opinions, ideas, or knowledge, and would like to get Paid for sharing them by writing for sites like this, Click Here.